As a parent, you already have a massive to do list every single day and it can be hard to come up with inspiration and ideas for different healthy lunch box snacks and meals for your child five days a week!
As its National Pack Your Lunch Day I wanted to share some ideas of snacks and meals you can offer to your little ones at school or nursery. Children up to 5 years grow quickly and become more and more active so it's important they have the right foods to support their healthy development. Children under 5 need lots of nutrients and energy due to being very active, however their stomach is only small, so they need smaller meals than we do as adults. So as a result some of the foods we would have as adults are not recommended for children, as they will become full too quickly before having taken in the energy they need.
What type of foods should my child be eating?
To help your child to get all the energy and nutrients they need it is best to give them a wide variety of foods from the 4 main food groups:
1. Bread, other cereals and potatoes (white, brown, wholemeal varieties)
Aim for at least one serving with each meal. This will provide the following nutrients: vitamin B, carbohydrates for energy and fibre. Examples-bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles. Small portions of these can also be good for snacks.
2. Fruit and Vegetables
This can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried, as well as pure fruit juice. This will provide the following nutrients: vitamins including C, fibre and some green veggies offer Iron. It is recommended that you offer 5 child sized portions per day (a child's portion is smaller than adults e.g. half a piece of fresh fruit, 1 tablespoon of cooked veg, 1 small glass of fruit juice-diluted). Vegetable sticks can be given as a snack e.g. cucumber, carrot, baby corn and peppers. If you have a fussy eater you can hide vegetables in casseroles or soup.
3. Milk and Dairy
This can be milk, cheese, yoghurt or fromage frais. Daily quantities are at least 350ml of milk or 2-3 servings of dairy foods. This will provide calcium for strong teeth and bones, as well as protein needed for growth, as well as vitamins and minerals including A, B2 and B12. Yogurts or fromage frais could be given as a snack or as a dessert.
4. Meat, Fish, Pulses
This can be meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses (baked beans, chickpeas, lentils). Aim for 2 servings per day. This will provide protein, iron along with vitamins e.g. B12 and minerals e.g. zinc.
What drinks should I give my child?
Squash and Fizzy drinks are not recommended for children under 5 due to the negative effects on their dental health.
Milk is beneficial for your child's development as its calcium rich which helps to strengthen bones. It also provides protein which helps growth. It also provides energy and vitamins, as well as helping to keep teeth healthy. From 2 years old you can move from whole milk to semi-skimmed milk, if they are growing and developing well. Remember skimmed milk should not be given to under 5's.
Water is ideal as its full of nutrients for healthy growth and development.
Pure Fruit Juice
You can give unsweetened pure fruit juice to your child, but this needs to be diluted (1 part juice to 8 parts water) as it provides vitamin C. Only offer it a meal times, but not on its own as it can damage teeth.
Lunch Box Ideas for your Child
Rice cakes or oat cakes
Bread sticks to dip in cream cheese
Raw vegetables sticks such as cucumber, peppers, carrots, baby corn with a dip e.g. cream cheese or hummus
Slice or chopped fruits e.g. apples, pears, bananas, strawberries-you could make up a fruit salad with a wide variety of fruits
Cubes of cheese
Dried breakfast cereal
Yogurts or Fromaige Frais
Pot of custard
Pot of jelly
Rice pudding with raisins
Egg Bread Roll
Cheese and cucumber sandwich
Boiled egg slices, with buttered bread slices
Chicken and cucumber tortilla or pitta bread pockets
Make mini sandwiches with a range of fillings to give your child choice, make them appealing by using a different shaped cookie cutters to create different shapes
Pitta bread slices with vegetable slices and hummus and cream cheese for dipping
Make mini pizzas out of pitta breads or muffins with your child's favourite foods, they will even love eating these cold
Roast vegetables with chickpeas and couscous
Tuna and sweetcorn pasta
Chicken and potato salad
Chicken and red pepper pasta
Turkey kebabs with tomatoes, cucumber, cooked new potoaoes-serve on plastic straws
Rice with chicken and sweetcorn
How to make the lunch box contents appealing to your child?
The lunch box itself also needs to be eye catching and appealing to your child and there are different things you can do to achieve this:
-Let your child be involved in choosing their lunch box
-Offer a lunch box with compartments as children can be picky if certain foods are touching other foods
-Foods can also be kept separate by using small containers within the lunch box, but make sure these are see through so they can still see what is inside
-Include a bright coloured plastic spoon and fork in case they do not want to touch certain foods with their hands
-Provide a variety of small amounts of different foods to give them choice
-Include bright coloured foods so they stand out and are eye catching
-Cut food items into slices or smaller pieces so they are easier for them to hold and eat
-Do some baking with your child e.g. make fruity cookies and fruity flapjacks, if your child is involved in making the food then they will be more happy to choose these to eat
-Let them be involved in making sandwiches or wraps and give them a choice of fillings to choose
Other sources of information on Food, Meals and Lunch Box Ideas:
I hope this blog has given you some new lunch box ideas. If you have any of your own suggestions, I'd love to share these with my readers and clients, please let me know on my social media platforms Instagram or Facebook or comment below.
Written by G.Hampton 08/03/2021
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