Kids adore ‘kid food’- fun, colorful, mini-size, cartoon-covered, ready-made, TV-advertised tasty snacks that are easy to buy and convenient to pack into a lunch box. Unfortunately these foods are usually packed with bad nutrition- fat, sugar, salt and additives. Even the foods which appeal to you as a parent because they claim to be healthy are usually expensive and almost always unhealthy. Often pester power wins, and because other children are allowed chocolate biscuits and crisps, it seems unfair to deny your child these fun products. We can all take positive steps to make our children more healthy, and if we work together as a team, then so much the better. Lets try to squash the pester power and ban the junk.
Here are some ideas to help you provide a healthier lunch box:
1. Bin the junk, get back to basics and start preparing home made food from fresh ingredients. This food will be nutritionally far superior to anything that you buy ready-made.
2. Buy some greaseproof paper sandwich bags (plastic coverings on food may be harmful to our children’s health) small reusable containers and fun stickers. Use these to create attractive packaging to hold their interest, and help the environment at the same time.
3. Get the children involved, they are far more likely to eat something they enjoyed backpack lunch bag making. Buy or make pizza, cut into smaller pieces and get the kids to make their own mini-pizzas to eat cold. Provide healthy toppings such as mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, peas and mushrooms.
4. Make fruit fun. Buy vitamin-packed strawberries, blueberries, kiwis and grapes. Set them in jelly in little pots, thread them on wooden skewers or make them into a lovely salad.
5. Kids love ‘dippers’ but they are full of junk. Make your own, with little pots of humus, mackerel pate, or cream cheese, prepare sticks of vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, peppers, celery or use breadsticks and crackers. Pack some veggie sausages and a little pot of tomato ketchup.
6. Cook pasta, noodles or rice at tea-time and put some aside for a healthy salad containing tuna, chicken and fresh or cooked veg. Encourage the kids to feel grown up for trying new more adult things.
7. Try alternatives to sandwiches to add variety. Kids love little pita pockets or tortilla wraps rolled up. Fill them with grated cheese and carrot, or avocado, tuna, a little chicken, or baby leaf spinach.
8. Pack a little salad box. Try cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, baby leaf spinach, lettuce, cucumber sticks, lightly cooked baby corn and green beans, and sprinkle on sunflower and pumpkin seeds for brain-boosting essential fatty acids.
9. Encourage them to drink water or a little bottle of fresh fruit juice, much healthier than squash.
10. Buy as much local and organic food as possible. This food will be higher in vitamins, minerals and important enzymes. You can guarantee that organic foods will not contain dangerous additives, pesticides, and hydrogenated fats. Try visiting the organic section in your supermarket.
I can understand that you may think that this will be costly and time-consuming.
Firstly, it is worth considering the cost of not improving our children’s diet and making time; poor concentration, bad behavior, skin problems, allergies, weight problems and associated emotional stress, adulthood plagued by ill health and possible heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, I could go on. Secondly you may be surprised how much money you save by banning the junk. Supermarkets such as Tesco now have a broad range of organics at reasonable prices, and the local fruit and veg shop will provide local seasonal produce cheaper than the supermarket. Give it a go, fill the house with delicious wholesome food, lead by example and improve your diet, the whole family will feel better and be healthier.