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It is that time of year again when children are off to school. For us, we are starting this journey over again. Our youngest teenager is in his final year of high school and our little guy is starting his first year. I need to get back into the habit of packing a lunch every day!
One of the most important aspects of the back to school preparation aside from uniforms, books, haircuts and shiny shoes, is lunchbox planning. There is nothing that makes a school morning more stressful than trying to create a great lunchbox when you haven’t planned ahead. You end up sending them with a carrot and some breakfast biscuits hurriedly spread with jam…or just butter :/
An important part of creating an additive free lunchbox is making it easy for children to eat their lunch. Complicated inclusions that are healthy but can’t be eaten without mess or help from a teacher can be stressful for children. For example, cherry tomatoes are a wonderful snack, but smaller children might find the first bite squirts juice and seeds all over their clean new uniform and their fellow students. This is where a practice run at home with a packed lunch can be a helpful way to see how your child unpacks and eats what you prepare for them to iron out any potential issues.
Here are my additive free and child friendly suggestions for lunchboxes.
Bananas are best avoided unless you have a plastic holder to protect them, as they will quickly go from firm and ripe to black and squishy in a lunchbox. Small children are discouraged from the outer appearance and you will be greeted with an unpleasant surprise at 3.30pm!
Grapes are great when frozen, particularly for a hot day. Fruits that do not oxidise when cut can be eaten as finger food, such as strawberries, watermelon, rockmelon and pineapple. Avoid whole apples for younger children as they can be very difficult to eat when children are coping with loose teeth.
Carrot, celery and cucumber sticks are great finger foods. If your child can manage, a small container of homemade hummus dip adds variety and nutrients. Snow peas are another great finger food for children and they can be blanched if your child prefers them to be a bit softer. A steamed corn cob can be a great snack too. Celery and peanut butter is another great finger food and tasty snack however please check your school’s allergy policy before sending nut butters with your child.
Sultanas and cheese cubes. I always combine these foods because of a tip I learned from a mother who was also a dental nurse. As sultanas are very high in natural sugars the cheese helps to neutralize the effects of the sugars on tooth enamel. Sultanas are sometimes coated with oil or have an additive or preservative component. When shopping, look for 100% sultanas as the only ingredient.
Rice cakes. Look for brands that list the ingredient as 100% rice, such as Pure Harvest. Spread with some pure honey for a yummy, filling snack.
Yoghurt. Look for 100% Natural Yoghurt such as Tamar Valley. Stir through some fruit pieces and freeze in individual containers for a frosty summer snack that resembles ice cream when partially thawed! Don’t forget to include a cold pack.
If your child is eating a variety of healthy foods over the day, it is perfectly fine for their sandwich to be simple. Children may struggle with a sandwich that is too large or they might just want to eat quickly y so they can play with their friends. A simple sandwich of additive free bread and honey, sliced block cheese or even ahomemade jam is less daunting. It is all about keeping things simple and user friendly for busy young children.
Meat. Processed lunch meats should be avoided for children entirely. Processed meats are a HIT LIST item that I will discuss further at a later date on this Blog. Items such as ham and salami are extremely bad for children due to high levels of sodium and nitrates. Try roasting a whole chicken and shredding it up for use in sandwiches. Spread additive free bread or wraps with avocado and top with chicken. Always ensure meats are sent with a cold pack in an insulated lunch bag.
For those new to going additive free, it can be difficult. Food labelling and packaging regulations in Australia can be misleading and confusing for the average consumer. A good rule of thumb to remember is the ‘Triple P’ rule; if it is Packaged and Processed it usually has Preservatives/Additives.
My little guy’s first school lunch
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