Healthy Eating: School lunchbox ideas from a dietitian

Healthy Eating: School lunchbox ideas from a dietitian

A dietitian offers a guide on how to ensure your child gets the right nutrients to help them perform better in school. 

Learner lunch box
Learner lunch box/ iStock

Malnutrition has substantial effects on the neurological development and behavioural capacity of children, states the National Institutes of Health.

This is why parents and guardians need to ensure that they provide their children with healthy food. 

Dr Sylven Masoga, a dietitian who lectures at the University of Limpopo, says the first tip for parents is to ensure their children receive a healthy breakfast before going to school.  

He says breakfast is the most important meal of the day and will give children a great kickstart to the day. 

"The first thing is to alleviate hunger because a child cannot operate while hungry," says the dietitian. 

READ: Can a vegan diet be dangerous?

When it comes to what to pack in the lunchbox, Dr Masoga says parents have to be intentional about feeding their children nutritional food. 

"When you pack that lunchbox, make sure that there is a representation of the various food items which represent various nutrients," says Dr Masoga.

He says this is especially important because "children need a lot of energy" and food serves as a source of that energy. 

Parents or guardians need to provide a balanced diet for their children, starting with starchy foods which are a great source of glucose, energy, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.

The dietitian says children need glucose which they will get in starchy food. 

"In their lunchbox there should be starchy food such as bread, macaroni, and whole wheat rolls, etc., to provide the child with energy." 

Another source of energy is "protein-giving food". 

Dr Masoga says unprocessed cheese is a great source of protein "because processed cheese has lots of sugar and lots of fat". He prefers blocked cheese which can be cut into slices by the parents or the children. 

READ: Dietitian gives warning signs that you are on the wrong diet

The dietitian says lean meat is also great to pack for your child's lunch box because it doesn't contain saturated fat.

Whatever you choose to pack, Dr Masoga says you must remove the fat and skin of the meat.

He recommends fish because he says it contains Omega 3 which is crucial for brain development. 

"Another source of protein includes milk," says Masoga.    

He says milk will provide your child with calcium and phosphorus. This is beneficial for their bones. 

Lastly, the dietitian says parents must include fruits and vegetables in their children's lunch box. 

He gives the following guide for a good lunchbox: "Bread, scrambled egg, sliced tomato, and fruit juice, alternatively, spaghetti, lean mince or fish, mixed vegetables and banana."

You can cut the vegetables in such a way that they look appealing to the child. 

READ: How to avoid emotional eating

Image courtesy of iStock/ @Mukhina1

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