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Parents who have kids starting school next year have probably got more than a few concerns, and things to get organised. For preps, this can be the first time they are away every day from Mum and Dad – so how do you know they eating well? Read on to figure out how to start with a healthy lunchbox filled with lots of yummy ideas for kid’s nutrition.

As the parent of a school starter, you have got a lot on your mind. Uniforms, hats and sunscreen, schoolbags, shoes, hair ties and more. You hope they like their teacher. You hope they make some friends. You hope they are happy and that the homework isn’t too hard (for either of you!).

And you hope they eat well.

During their first few months of school, preps can get very tired, as they aren’t used to such long days, and repeating this day after day.

The teachers will tell you that one of the best things you can do is give them a good healthy lunchbox filled with not just things that they like, but things which are good for them.

They need energy to keep going all day, but the best kind is healthy, slow-release forms of energy. Teachers will also tell you that there are few things worse than 22 six-year-olds coming down from a lunchtime sugar high!

What do kids need to meet daily nutritional requirements?

Nutritionally, your child needs every day:

  • Two or three serves of calcium (dairy is the easiest way to do get this, or through calcium-fortified non-dairy foods)
  • Healthy slow-release sources of carbohydrates, such as fruit, whole grains, rice
  • Healthy sources of protein and fat such as meat, chicken, fish, avocado, cheese, olive oil
  • Five or more serves of fruit or vegetables
  • Lots and lots of water

You obviously don’t have to get all of this into them during school hours – a hearty breakfast and healthy dinner will also help.

One mother that we know struggles to get any of her three children to eat fresh fruit at school, and gets sick of smushed up bananas and bruised pears coming home again. So she serves a giant plate of cut up fruit straight after school before they are allowed anything else to make sure this need is still being met.

The best you can do for school is make sure they are not going hungry, and give them as little sources of processed sugar as you can. Ideally, give them no lollies, chocolates, or fizzy drinks. Stay away from fruit drinks which tend to have little nutritional value and instead are high in sugar.

If your child isn’t a big fan of sandwiches, there are lots of other options. Get creative and look into bento boxes, wraps, homemade sushi, or even a thermos of soup, pasta or rice.

Tips to make sure they eat everything in their healthy lunchbox

A little bribery with your kids can be ok sometimes, and it is all right to offer reward in return for a week of lunchboxes all emptied. It’s best if you don’t bribe them to eat healthy food by offering junk food as a treat, however, as this sets up the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food and can encourage a bad relationship with food.

Offer other kinds of treats instead, such as a trip to the park after school on Friday, a trip to the library or toy library, or a new book or small puzzle.

Rewards charts can also be good – kids love ticking off a chart. Put something together which shows that they have eaten each of their daily requirements and then choose a healthy reward each weekend.

Let them help you bake the things to go in their lunchbox, or help you choose healthy options from the supermarket. Let them play an active role in their food choices and they may be more likely to eat what they select or make.

If you are tired and stressed in the morning, perhaps get into the habit of putting together lunches the night before.

Promote your own good eating habits as well, as one of the best ways kids learn anything is through your modelling as their parent.

Be wary of Allergies

Many schools are nut free zones because of children suffering from severe nut allergies. Make sure that you understand your school’s policy around what can go in the lunchbox, and steer clear of peanut butter, Nutella and any bars containing nuts in your kid’s lunch.

Also, as kind and generous as your little one may be, encourage them not to share their food with anyone.

Healthy lunchbox ideas

  • Fresh fruit like apples, sliced grapes, watermelon, blueberries or bananas
  • Fruit purees are also good, but watch for any added sugar, or perhaps make your own at home
  • Chopped vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery, capsicum, cucumber, or cherry tomatoes
  • Cubed cheese or cheese sticks
  • Wholegrain wraps or sandwiches
  • Homemade cheese and vegemite scrolls
  • Homemade sushi
  • Rice crackers and dip or salsa
  • Yoghurt tubs or squeezies (again watch for sugar)
  • Homemade baked goods like sweet or savoury muffins, muesli bars, banana bread Homemade sausage rolls, frittatas, zucchini slice, vegetable fritters or mini meatballs

Thoughts to Take Away

Try not to stress too much about it; even if your child is struggling to eat the right things now, usually any eating pattern is only a phase. Be persistent and keep offering healthy options, and invite your child to work with you to figure out what they like to eat.

Don’t give in to convenience when there are so many easy healthy options, including the packaged ones available in supermarkets. Learn how to read nutritional labels and make sure that you are giving good choices. Good luck!