Lunch for school

What do your kids eat for lunch at school?
Although your kids may be eating well if they eat a balanced meal prepared in the school cafeteria or if you pack them a healthy lunch, it is increasingly likely that they are making poor choices and eating an unhealthy lunch, which may be one of the reasons that more kids are becoming overweight.
Many parents feel like they have a hard enough time working to get their kids to eat well at home and think they don't have any control over what they eat at school, but if you are aware of the choices they have, you may be able to influence what they eat. Or even better, influence what choices they have.

How to pack a healthy kids lunch box
With a third of a child's total food intake for the day being consumed at school, it is important that the bulk of food included in your child's lunch box provides much needed nutrients, vitamins and minerals for energy and growth.
 Wholegrains for energy
The first thing that needs to be considered when packing a lunch is a good source of carbohydrate for energy. For most children, this will be a sandwich but may also be a wrap made from flatbread such as Lavash or Lebanese bread, or from cracker biscuits or rice and corn cakes.
 Protein and vegies
Aim for your child's sandwich to contain a good source of lean protein such as 97 per cent fat-free turkey, chicken or ham, tinned tuna or salmon or low-fat cheese. The protein portion will keep your child full, help to maintain concentration levels through the afternoon lessons and help prevent the four o'clock rush to the fridge when they get home. Also try to add some sort of salad to the sandwich. Salad and vegetables add fibre and bulk, which also helps to keep him or her full. Some options that will not make sandwiches too soggy include lettuce, grated carrot, celery or capsicum and cucumber circles.
Fruit for fibre
Always add one piece of fresh or dried fruit to your child's lunch box. Children will eat fruit if they are hungry and there are no other more appealing "junk type" options available. Different fruit options include small tins of fruit in natural juice, small plastic containers of grapes or strawberries, pieces of banana or melon, mandarins or stonefruit or small packets of sultanas or dried apricots.
Water to drink
Water should be the drink of choice. Fruit juices, cordials, flavoured waters and full strength soft drinks are very high in sugar and should not be consumed on a daily basis. Freeze water bottles the night before for hot summer days.
Small snack
Failing to include a snack in your child's lunch box runs the risk of them swapping their fruit for more appealing packaged options. A more realistic approach is to include one, small nutritous snack. Unfortunately, it does seem that many parents are over filling their children's lunch boxes with snack food. A Victorian survey of more than 3000 children found on average children were given three serves of snack or "junk foods" each day for their lunch box, which is far too many. Aim for one small (~20g or <400kJ snack food) in your child's lunch box each day.Other nutritious snack choices include reduced-fat flavoured milk, cheese sticks, yoghurt, cheese and crackers, mini-muffins and low-fat cookies.

Lunch box ideas

Ham, pineapple & cheese pizza scrolls
Pack the kids off to school with one of these pizza scrolls, some chilled apple juice and a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit. They'll come back with an empty lunchbox!
 300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
 Pinch of salt
 90g butter, cut into cubes
 160ml (2/3 cup) milk
 Plain flour, to dust
 60g (1/4 cup) pizza sauce
 80g (1 cup) coarsely grated cheddar
 150g sliced leg ham, coarsely chopped
 1 x 225g can pineapple pieces, drained on paper towel
 Extra milk, to brush
1.Preheat oven to 210°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk. Use a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until evenly incorporated and the mixture begins to hold together.
2.Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until smooth. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 30 x 40cm rectangle.
3..Spread the pizza sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Sprinkle with the cheddar, ham and pineapple. Starting from a long side, roll up firmly to form a log. Brush the edge with a little extra milk and press down firmly to seal the log. Cut crossways into 12 equal portions, about 3cm thick. Place scrolls on the prepared tray. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Mini chicken and vegetable platter
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 12 chicken drumettes
  • 125g sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 large carrot, cut into sticks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into sticks
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Line a baking tray with foil.
  3. Combine soy sauce, tomato sauce and honey in a bowl. Add chicken and stir to coat. Arrange chicken, in a single layer, on prepared tray. Bake, turning twice, for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
  4. Place peas in a small, heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stand for 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water.
  5. Pack chicken and vegetables in lunchboxes.
Pita pockets with meatballs
1 tsp olive oil

1 small brown onion, finely chopped
250g beef mince
1/2 cup (35g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tbs tomato paste
4 wholemeal pita pockets
1/3 cup (85g) hummus (see note)
 Small butter lettuce leaves
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
 4 qukes (baby lebanese cucumbers), thinly sliced lengthways
1.Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Transfer to a medium bowl.
2.Add beef mince, breadcrumbs, egg and tomato paste to onion and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tablespoonfuls of beef mixture into balls and place on a plate. Cover plate with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
3.Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until brown all over and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
4.Cut each pita pocket in half widthways. Gently pull edges apart and spread with hummus inside. Fill pockets with lettuce, tomatoes, qukes and meatballs. Wrap in baking paper and pack into lunch boxes.

Beans cream
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 50g green beans
  • 220g can salt-reduced baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed, cut into sticks
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cut into sticks
  • 1 large red capsicum, cut into sticks
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil over high heat. Cook green beans for 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Refresh in a bowl of iced water.
  2. Place baked beans in a food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Fold through yoghurt. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with vegetable sticks and green beans.