As parents of 3 young girls 6 and under I can tell you it is not easy to stay on the ball with their nutrition. We are lucky in that apart from their fussiness at dinner time, our girls are actually quite good with their ‘during the day’ food. They are used to eating good quality seeded bread for their sandwiches and toast and they love their fruit, yogurt and cheese. They mainly drink water or milk and apple juice is had only as an occasional treat.
What frustrates me however is the amount of marketing of junk food targeting tired and busy parents (via their children) and I had a moment a few months ago, where I realised that despite all that I have learned about health and nutrition, I had actually fallen victim to this marketing!
We received an email from Miss 4’s preschool teacher listing items of food that were not allowed at school. Apart from the obvious no no’s (i.e chocolate bars, lollies, coco pops (!) chips and cake) she specifically mentioned Tiny Teddy biscuits which I am ashamed to admit had been finding their way into her morning tea bag at least once a week (along with a piece of fruit). I don’t know if I was more shocked that I had classed Tiny Teddies as an appropriate everyday snack (i.e. not even a treat) or simply that I had been won over by the cute little teddies believing that they were acceptable rather than reading the list of ingredients on the packet which tell a different story! And its not just the Tiny Teddies. An audit of our pantry has found a whole range of ‘kid friendly’ snacks (that are not actually kid friendly at all) at my fingertips to make filling lunchboxes quicker and more convenient at the cost of my kids’ health!!!
I don’t want to be the queen of no fun, but when I see how obsessed my kids are with sugary junk food it frightens me! The last thing I want to do as a parent is be responsible for my children suffering the same health issues as their father and it’s really quite alarming at how easily our society’s attitude to junk food can let this happen.
Kids these days are exposed to so many treats – whether it be at birthday parties (not only at the party but in the customary lolly bags that accompany them home), rewards from teachers at school, rewards from teachers at extra curriculum activities, treats from us on the weekends if we take them out somewhere, treats when they visit their grandparents and it goes on and on! So I have made a decision to tighten the reins when it comes to school lunches and snacks and I am determined to do my best to ensure that the junky quick fix snack packs that were finding their way into my kids lunchboxes are now a thing of the past!
Here are some suggestions for healthy lunch box ideas – hopefully there are some ideas that your kids might take to. I guess the key is to keep it simple …
- Fruit – whole or chopped up into little tubs
- Cheese and biscuits – the pre-packaged ones are so convenient, but cheaper option is to make up your own packs
- Cheese sticks/ cheese cubes (make sure they are 100% cheese and not that horrible plastic cheese)
- Sultanas or other dried fruit- my daughter loves little bags of dried apricots.
- 100% real fruit ‘leather’ strips. Just watch out for fruit snacks labelled as healthy alternatives to fruit that are full of harmful nasties – for example those dried apricot cubes contain so much sugar and fructose corn syrup – terrible!
- Yoghurt – such a variety on the market, again a point of contention with me is the more they are marketed at children, the more sugar will be in them. Check out the ingredients before buying the little tubs, or get a good quality organic yogurt and divvy it up yourself.
- Rice cakes – with Vegemite, cream cheese, avocado …
- Look in your health food shop for healthy snack ideas – you can portion them off into snack bags
- Home made muffins or cupcakes – a great opportunity to sneak veggies into them, use healthy ingredients and cut down the sugar you put in them. My daughter (who is gluten and dairy intolerant loves these sugar free cupcakes – recipe here)
- Small tin of baked beans with ring pull to open (don’t forget the spoon!) or if your school does not like tins you can spoon into small containers.
- Homemade pikelets (the store bought ones are full of nasties)
- Plain popcorn
- Hard boiled egg – peeled and in a container for easy access
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- Cucumber sticks with tzatiki or yoghurt
At the end of the day, as parents we can only do our best, but if we are so obsessed with our own nutrition, we owe it to our children to be as obsessed with theirs.
I have written another article about how I get my children to eat better. I call it The Mummy Win! Here is the link to the article. I hope that it helps you with your own children’s food challenges!