You can make your lunchbox more nutritious by choosing fresh food over packets, and control how much sugar and salt you’re consuming too.
How do we make the swap?
Start with one item and exchange it for a homemade or less processed version. Creating new habits takes time. It takes three weeks for our taste buds to adjust to a new level of sweetness for example. So if transitioning from a sugar-sweetened yoghurt to an unsweetened or natural version, gradually mix larger and larger proportions of the natural or unsweetened yoghurt into the pot. Over time the new item will become the habit.
My boys love when I find a great tasting, fresh food alternative. Oven-baked, homemade chicken nuggets are a winner in our house, on the dinner table and in the lunchbox. Finding a healthy option is as easy as searching online for ‘healthy chicken nuggets’.
Planning and preparation
- Make sure the fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked and ready to go. Having the right foods to hand makes everything else so much easier.
- Pre-prepare fresh food options in bulk so all you need to do is add to the lunchbox. There are so many foods that can be made in large batches then stashed until needed – chicken drumsticks, frittatas, quiches, savoury or low-sugar muffins, crepes…
- Wash and chop in bulk. This works well for veges and fruit. If you can just grab and pack in the blur of an early morning, it makes lunches much easier.
- Favourites. Whether this is a preferred savoury option like a marinated chicken wing or a snack item like organic rice crackers, always have some crowd pleasers on hand.
There are so many options out there now. You can buy animal-shaped or super hero-inspired boxes or create your own with Tupperware and stickers. Containers that appeal to your children can make a big difference to how the food inside is accepted.
Involving the whole family in the challenge is a good way for children to become invested in creating each element of a new lunchbox.
Maybe some of the money saved from not buying packets can be put towards a special toy or a family outing. It’s great to have a reason to celebrate!
Judith Yeabsley is a mum of two boys who is passionate about healthy food for kids. She runs a food art website, theartofnutrition.com, focusing on presenting fruit and veges creatively. She also works to change the food environment in schools, community groups and lunchboxes. For information on this and great recipes, see theartofnutrition.co.nz.