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The Lunchbox Dilemma


09-09-2013 18:30

School’s back and so is the lunchbox dilemma! Our expert, Anna Burns, author of The Food Nanny: The 10 Food Rules to Prevent a Frighteningly Fat Future for Your Kids, shares some tried-and-tested tips in her blog post.

 

Ask any parent this week about getting their children back into the routine of school and you will hear moans and groans about the lunchbox amidst the happy description of their child’s new schedule. It seems to be the most daunting aspect of our many chores surrounding the daily school grind. We happily fold uniforms, buy copybooks, sign homework journals; what we find difficult is a continual level of enthusiasm, innovation and interest in the dreaded lunchbox. Yes, we would love to put ciabatta in one day, home-made brown soda bread another day, multi-grain seeded bread rolls the next. Is this level of commitment to the lunchbox necessary?

We have all tied ourselves in knots over this constant need to vary, refresh and generate the ‘wow’ factor every time our little (or not so little) ones open the veritable cornucopia that the lunchbox has become. The answer? Simplify! By all means go to the ends of the earth for variety if it is important to you and you have time to fit it into your day. To simplify, however, can be good.

Our children can get all the nutrients they need in a very simple format – think colour. The variety in the lunchbox can be achieved with different fruits and vegetables every day. Different coloured yoghurt pots, cheese wrappers and even spoons can generate interest in what can be simple to prepare and always balanced. I put baby cucumbers in one day, carrot sticks the next, teeny tiny tomatoes another. Colour in nature equals antioxidants, and antioxidants are vitally important to health.

The same lunchbox may very well contain a ham sandwich every one of those days, depending on the busyness levels at home! I might want them to eat salmon, egg or beef, but I find this easier to make happen at dinnertime than choosing to battle it out over the lunchbox. One day a Petits Filous turns up, another day it is two slices of holey (Emmental) cheese wrapped in tinfoil, the next it’s milk, ice-cold from the fridge that morning. As for fruit, one day it’s a mandarin, the next a very small banana, another day it’s a bunch of grapes. It tends never to be an apple, as in primary school our children never get breaks long enough to finish an apple and would prefer to be outside playing – and rightly so!

So think colour and think compartments; the lunchbox should contain a bread section (or other carbohydrates such as pasta or rice), a fruit section, a vegetable section, a section for dairy products and, of course, a water bottle. By all means give your child vegetables in the form of soup and carbohydrates in the form of a pasta salad on occasion. Mine tend to insist on a sandwich only. I tend to insist that they eat their vegetable portion in order to get said sandwich only. It works for me! Balance is the goal.


The Food Nanny: The 10 Food Rules to Prevent a Frighteningly Fat Future for Your Kids by Anna Burns is available from the Gill Books Online Bookshop and all good bookstores nationwide. Also available as an ebook.


Follow The Food Nanny on Facebook and tune in every second Tuesday to listen to her advice on nutrition on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk show (106–108 FM).



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