WITH the start of each school year comes the daunting task faced by Ipswich parents of filling lunch boxes.
Finding foods that are nutritious and, more importantly, will actually be eaten is never easy but accredited practising dietician Amanda McCartney believes the solution lies in variety, choice and kids' involvement.
"Provide them with reasonable options to choose from and allow them to be involved in the planning, preparing and packing," Ms McCartney said.
"This will mean less trading of items in the playground or lunchboxes returning home with uneaten food."
Ms McCartney said most pre-packaged food was low in nutrients, therefore parents' emphasis should be on fresh produce.
She recommends tinned or fresh fruit, yoghurt or custard, vegetable sticks, scones or pikelets, crackers with cheese, vegemite or peanut butter, nuts or plain popcorn.
Favouring milk and water over juice, cordial and soft drink will keep the dentist trips to a minimum and saving tuckshop lunches to a weekly or fortnightly treat will help keeps costs down and ensure your kids stay healthy.
With one in four children overweight or obese, Ms McCartney believes a healthy lunch is more important than ever.
"Although the issue needs to be tackled on multiple levels, parents are crucial in teaching children what a healthy diet looks like ... the lunch box is a fantastic place to start," she said.
Just a few small changes can also make a difference to a child's performance at school, says Brisbane author, blogger and mother of two Hazel Key.
"With a little knowledge, parents can turn lunch boxes into an opportunity to boost their ability to focus, remember and learn," Ms Key said.
Foods with too much sugar, refined carbohydrates and certain types of fat can disrupt concentration and memory and Ms Key offers recipes containing brain boosters such as avocado and blueberries in her book, The Clever Packed Lunch.
"We've the knowledge these days to actively promote, not just healthy bodies but optimal brain function through diet, so that kids can excel at school," she said.
The Clever Packed Lunch is available at the website: www.lunchideasforschool.com.
The start of school also coincides with Healthy Weight Week. For more information, meal plans and shopping tips, visit www.healthyweightweek.com.au.
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