Striking a Balance in the Lunchbox

1. WaterDrinking water is the best way to quench a child’s thirst. Even better, it doesn’t have all the extra sugar found in fruit drinks and juices, soft drinks, sports drinks and flavoured mineral waters. Children under 5 should drink 1.2 litres per day or about 5 glasses.   2. Fruit and vegetablesEating a variety […]

Striking a Balance in the Lunchbox

1. Water
Drinking water is the best way to quench a child’s thirst. Even better, it doesn’t have all the extra sugar found in fruit drinks and juices, soft drinks, sports drinks and flavoured mineral waters. Children under 5 should drink 1.2 litres per day or about 5 glasses.

 

2. Fruit and vegetables
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables will provide children with the vitamins, minerals and fibre they need to grow strong and healthy. Children under 5 should eat 1 portion of fruit and 2 portions of vegetables each day. But what is a portion?

One portion of fruit is:

  • 1 cup of chopped fresh fruit or canned fruit.
  • 1 medium fruit such as apple, banana or orange.
  • 2 smaller pieces of fruit such as apricots, or a handful of strawberries or blueberries.
  • 1½ tablespoons of dried fruit such as raisins.
  • 1 glass (250ml) of fruit juice.

One portion of vegetable is:

  • 1 cup of chopped fresh, frozen or canned vegetables.
  • 1 medium tomato.
  • 1 handful of chopped raw carrots.
  • Remember regular potatoes are not vegetables but sweet potatoes are.

Struggling to convince children to eat their fruit and veg? Try some of these tips:

  • Cut up the fruit and vegetables so it is easy to eat.
  • Offer a variety of fruit and vegetables to try.
  • Offer the fruit and vegetables in different ways, such as raw, sliced, baked or grated.
  • Encourage children to prepare their own fruit and vegetables.
  • Try canned fruit or small amounts of dried fruit.

 

3. Limit sugar
It is recommended that sugar intake for a child does not exceed 3 teaspoons per day. Cutting back on sweets is only part of the solution. Beware of hidden sugar in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, frozen dinners, ketchup, and fast food.

Tips on reducing sugar intake:

  • Give recipes a makeover. Many recipes taste just as good with less sugar.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Focus on promoting water or milk or try adding a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water instead.
  • Cut down on processed foods, such as white bread and cakes, which cause blood sugar to go up and down, and can leave children tired and sapped of energy.

 

4. Limit salt
It is recommended salt intake for a child does not exceed ¾ of a teaspoon per day. Cutting back on table salt is only part of the problem. Beware of hidden salt in bread, breakfast cereal, processed food, pre packed sandwiches and even baked beans.

 

5. Five top tips for healthy lunchboxes

  1. Chop fruit and vegetables for the lunchbox so that it’s quick and easy to eat
  2. Avoid white bread and use wholegrain or wholemeal varieties to boost dietary fibre
  3. Meat and other protein sources such as lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs and legumes are a good source of protein and iron. Limit the use of sausages and processed luncheon meats such as corned beef and salami as they are high in saturated fat and salt.
  4. Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurts and cheeses are a good source of essential vitamins and nutrients including protein and calcium. Calcium is vital for building strong, healthy bones throughout life. Use reduced-fat milk and yoghurt (about 2% fat) for children over 2 years of age as it contains the same essential nutrients but less fat and kilojoules.
  5. Water is the best thirst quencher and therefore the best choice for the lunchbox. Tap water is safe to drink and provides fluid without the added sugar and kilojoules found in sweet drinks. Tap water in most areas contains fluoride which helps the development of strong bones and teeth.

 

6. In a nutshell…how much of what should children be eating each day?

Fruit and vegetables e.g. plums, strawberries, cabbage, carrots or peas  3 portions per day*
Whole grains e.g. multigrain toast, brown rice, sunflower seeds or bran flakes  4 portions per day
Milk and dairy e.g. cheese, whole milk, yogurt or milk puddings  3 portions per day
Protein e.g. turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, lamb, baked beans or lentils  2 portions per day

*Remember a portion is a child’s handful.

 

7. Some interesting foodie facts!

FACT ALERT!  

A can of fruit juice or soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar? Add it up: just one fizzy drink per week for one year puts almost an extra 3 kilograms of sugar into a child’s body.

FACT ALERT!  

Children may need to try new foods 8-9 times before they will like them.

FACT ALERT!  

The word ‘portion size’ and ‘serving’ mean the same thing. As a general rule a portion is the amount a child can hold in their hand.

FACT ALERT!  

Salt is made up of two parts – sodium and chloride. It is the sodium in salt that can lead to health problems. There are about 2.4g of sodium in 6g of salt.

FACT ALERT!  

About 75% of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy.

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