Think outside the Lunchbox
If you want to raise a responsible adult, the real work begins long before your child’s about to leave the nest. According to a 2015 study conducted by Brown University, children form lifelong habits by the age of 9.
While most parents realise the benefits of teaching financial literacy and interpersonal skills to their kids, the task of fostering healthy eating habits is not given as much attention. Which is sad, considering the huge impact your diet has on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Eating well controls weight, improves your mood, combats diseases and boosts energy. Although the internet is teeming with healthy eating tips, some parents are still not sure how to help their kids maximise the most important meal of the day — lunch. And the task is a little more complicated than choosing the right margarine for your kid’s sandwich.
“A healthy lunch for primary school kids not only boosts their nutrient intake, but also ensures that they have a more stable blood sugar, allowing them to concentrate better at school,” says Lila Bruk, a dietician and nutritional consultant.
“Foods that have a low GI keep the blood sugar stable, which improves concentration. These include low GI bread, legumes, brown rice and whole wheat crackers. Drinking enough water is also important as even mild dehydration can impair concentration.”
According to Bruk, school-going kids need a good serving of all nutrients, but there are a few that are especially crucial for their development.
“The most important are protein, unsaturated fats, calcium, zinc and iron,” she says.
Most dietary advice warns parents about what to avoid but there’s another way to look at things.
“All foods are perfectly acceptable in moderation. However, the basis of the lunchbox should always be a balance of protein, carbs and fat. It should also include fresh fruits or veggies.”
But more than anything, parents need to realise that they have a lot more options than they’re aware of.
“I think many parents need to think out the box. There are so many options that one can include beyond the basic sandwich and apple combination. Use leftovers from the night before and make exciting pasta salads, wraps and pita breads. Incorporate raw veggies with a dip to boost your child's vegetable intake. You can also include healthier treats like low GI muffins and homemade health bars.
“Many parents take full responsibility for what is packed into their child's lunchbox. But by getting their child involved in the preparing and packing of the lunchbox, their kid will be much more likely to eat their lunch.”