Back to school is approaching and parents need to start planning healthy lunchboxes to ensure the best options for snacks. Nowadays, parents struggle with demanding routines and busy schedules, having to manage their children’s needs at the same time, and all-week meal planning is critical.
It is very important not to give in to the temptation to buy salty or sugary snacks (eg, puff pastry, croissants, cakes, chocolates, chips, cookies, soft drinks…) which although practical it has low nutritional value, this is, high energy density and low intake of vitamins and minerals, essential for the growing phase of children.
What should not be missing in a healthy lunchbox?
It is essential for the normal functioning of the body and should be considered the drink of choice. Other water options may be teas, iced infusions, plain milk or 50% fruit/vegetable nectars. Soft drinks and energy drinks should not be available.
Carbohydrate sources (bread, cereals, crackers…)
They are essential energy providers for daily activities such as playing, running or studying.
Bread should preferably be mixed or made from dark flour. Attention should also be given to the filling so as not to unbalance the meal, avoiding chocolate, smoked or stuffed fillings. Whenever possible, encourage the addition of vegetables to sandwiches such as lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, etc.
In the case of cookies, choose the simplest ones such as crackers, rice or corn or just plain toasts. Most crackers and cereals on the market have high amounts of sugar and fat.
Excellent sources of high biological value proteins, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium that is essential for bones and teeth at this stage of children’s growth. Yogurts must be natural or flavored, without the addition of sweeteners.
A great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Seasonal fruit and fresh fruit consumption should be preferred.
Fruit consumption should vary so that the child receives a higher diversity of nutrients. Juices that are a 100% fruit should not be drunk frequently it’s best if you make juices made of one piece of fruit thinned with water.
Which precautions should be taken into consideration while preparing lunch boxes?
- Use isothermal lunchboxes so the temperature of the food can last longer.
- Wash thoroughly the fruit or vegetables used.
- Pack the food separately.
- Confirm the product shelf life and storage conditions.
- Explain to the child which foods to eat as the first snack of the day, which should be the most perishable food, such as yogurts, ham, fresh cheese, cottage cheese, etc. And assuming they are stored in an isothermal lunchbox.
- Adjust the snacks to the children’s preferences.
- Include the child in the preparation and choice of the snacks, helping to stimulate their consumption and enhance their independence.
A suggestion of a weekly healthy snack plan
Assumption: Children with 6 years and older
The portions should be adjusted to the age group and also to their energy and nutritional needs.
The food choices will be influenced by the preferences of the child and the existence of any food intolerances or allergies.
Carrot and Orange Muffin Healthy Recipe
Of the various options in the list above, let’s take for example the recipe for a healthy carrot and orange muffin.
Whole wheat flour (or other flour of your choice): 150g
Orange (zest and juice): 2 units
Honey: 1 tbsp
Baking Soda: 1 tsp
Olive Oil: 1 tbsp
Egg: 3 units
1. Grate the carrot.
2. Beat the egg yolks together with the grated carrot, the orange zest, and juice of both oranges, the olive oil, and the honey.
3. Add flour and baking soda.
4. Beat the egg whites and add to the previous preparation, slowly enveloping.
5. Bake at 180ºC for 20-25 minutes.
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