Healthy lunchboxes play a role in developing lifelong healthy eating habits.
Healthy lunches and lunchboxes can help develop an understanding of:
- The importance of eating a variety of whole foods
- The relationship between food, growth and development and which foods assist growth and development
- The value of food and taking time to prepare and enjoy healthy food with others
- That sometimes foods are not good choices for everyday and shouldn’t be in lunchboxes
For children lunchboxes have many different and important roles.
Lunchboxes containing healthy, whole foods consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating will contribute to healthy growth and development; optimise ability to learn; and teach life long healthy eating patterns.
- Healthy lunchboxes can provide children with skills and knowledge on how to prepare and select an appropriate amount of food for age and activity
- Encouraging children to sit, relax and take time to eat lunchbox foods demonstrates the important role food has in socialising with others
- In avoiding sometimes foods in lunchboxes we are showing children the foods that need to be limited or reserved only for special occasions, and that limiting packaged food has an important role for protecting the environment
The five food groups are:
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/ beans
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/ or alternatives
Great healthy meal ideas for lunchboxes include:
- Sandwich, wrap or roll including plenty of salad
- Rice and vegetable salad
- Egg and vegetable frittata
- Skinless chicken drumstick with corn and bean salad
- Homemade English Muffin Pizza
- Pasta and vegetables
But what about when kids bring in their own lunchboxes?
We often get feedback from our NOSHC members that they see unhealthy options in children’s lunchboxes. It is important where possible to work together with families, and to provide them with information on healthy lunchboxes.
- Settings based approach – ensure that your policy outlines what foods are acceptable as part of children’s lunchboxes. Your policy may state that sometimes foods are not an acceptable everyday lunchbox item, and will not be permitted in the setting. If these are permitted on special occaisions, they will be informed as to when these are. Parents then need to be informed of this through newsletters, satchel inserts and communication at pick up and drop off
- Structural strategies -Staff also need to be aware of healthy lunchboxes. Consider a professional development session at your next staff meeting – NOSHC can assist with this. Develop nutrition, food and learning activities not just for children – but for staff as well
- Operational Strategies – Posters, factsheets and pamphlets should be present around the OSHC setting promoting healthy lunchboxes. Consider healthy eating days, newsletter articles, and handouts. Check out our lunches fact sheet featured this month
- Lunches are a great time to promote healthy choices. Staff should engage children in discussion about healthy foods and drinks during this time
- If having difficulty communicating with some parents, try to seek common ground – find out why they do what they do. This may mean you able to work together to create shared solutions and promote healthier choices.