Not sure what to make your little ones for lunch? Here are some healthy lunch ideas for kids

“Lunch boxes form an important part of a balanced meal plan and healthy lunch boxes ensure that your children are receiving essential nutrients and the recommended kilojoules to sustain their energy levels, alertness and focus during the school day,” says Naazneen Sali-Ameen, Nestlé Health and Wellness Manager.

Quick prep

To start, it helps to make sure you have everything you need – BPA-free lunch boxes, water bottles, and a small, lunch bag cooler box with an ice brick to help keep meat and dairy products cold.

To help you pack balanced lunches, it may help you to make a list of ingredients under each of the five major food groups, including snacks and the occasional treat.

Here are some ideas:

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Carbohydrates/starchy foods

You can use, brown, wholegrain or seeded bread or rolls, rice or corncakes, wholegrain crackers, or pap, mealies or sweetcorn from the night before. As an alternative, pita pockets, English muffins and tortilla wraps make a nice change.

If possible, choose wholegrain or wholewheat options and try to vary the type of starch in lunch boxes to keep meals exciting.

Lean proteins

Legumes such as lentils or chickpeas are packed with protein and are a great alternative to meat. Tuna, beef, chicken or leftover lean mince or stew can make great sandwich fillers.

Dairy

This could include sugar-free yoghurt, reduced fat cheese or milk. If your child is dairy intolerant, plant-based dairy alternatives are full of flavour and nutrients.

Fruit and vegetables

Colourful and healthy lunch box additions include carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, apple slices, banana, grapes and pineapple.

To stop fruit oxidising (going brown), squeeze a bit of orange juice over them.

Related: 4 Steps to take if you’re concerned about your child’s weight

Healthy fats and oils

Avocado, nuts and seeds, olives and whole eggs are packed with good fats which help a child absorb essential vitamins needed for growth.

Snacks and treats

On occasion, you can include a ‘surprise’, like some dried fruit, peanuts, air-popped and lightly salted popcorn, or a bite-sized chocolate.

Water

Don’t forget to include water to keep your children hydrated during their busy school day.

If you child prefers a flavoured drink, add chopped fruit to flavour their water. Avoid buying them highly-coloured, artificially-sweetened and or fizzy options.

If you enjoy organising your home, partition your fridge or pantry into sections and use different colour stickers on each section to identify elements from the five different food groups. It takes some time but once it’s done, it makes it easy and quick to get lunches ready in the morning. You could even ask your children to help pack their own lunches using the colour codes, and make a game out of it.

Good habits start at an early age, which is why Nestlé has launched the Nestlé for Healthier Kids schools initiative, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education. The programme is designed to help parents and caregivers make informed, healthier food and lifestyle choices for their children.

For more information, visit www.nestle.co.za/csv/global-initiatives/healthier-kids

Related: How to get your toddler to eat more vegetables

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.