Healthy lunchbox ideas for kids

Encouraging healthy eating habits in your child from a young age will set them on a path to success. Educational psychologist Marinda Botha unpacks the truth behind nutrition and behaviour and gives tips on packing the ultimate lunchbox.

If you put substandard fuel into their fuel tanks, you can’t expect your child to perform scholastically. A lunch box with white bread and jam, chips and a chocolate will give them rocket fuel without brakes. For a short while they will feel overly energetic and climb the walls, without being able to listen and concentrate. After this their blood glucose will plummet, they will feel tired and will again not be able to concentrate.

The goal is thus to limit sugar, salt and transfat intake and rather take in complex carbohydrates and good omega oils. It’s not easy, however, since sugars and other culprits hide in numerous foods.

To put your child’s current sugar intake into perspective, a can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in and a cup of cereal about 5 teaspoons of sugar. This doesn’t even include the additional sugar you might add on top of it.

Healthy food swaps for kids
There are a few common health traps that we can look out for and replace with healthier alternatives when planning meals or lunchboxes:

Health Traps 

  • Hard margarine 
  • Soda's, boxed fruit juices 
  • Flavoured yoghurts
  • White bread, pastries and cake 
  • Any processed meats like viennas, polony, sausage rolls, deep fried meat
  • Fish cakes and fish fingers. Transfats (deep fried foods). 
  • Sauces containing a lot of vinegar, sugar and salts. These include tomato sauce and salad dressing
Healthier alternatives
  • Butter, soft margarine without transfats
  • Water or freshly squeezed juices that can be diluted with water
  • Greek style yogurt with all the live cultures. Honey or fresh fruit can be added to taste
  • Low GI, Seeded, Brown, Rye or Ciabatta bread
  • Good quality lean meat
  • Homemade fishcakes from quality ingredients
  • Freshly made sauces and salad dressing from tomatoes, herbs, olive oil etc.
Lunch box tipsTaking all of the above into account, and having done a lot of work to expose your child to healthy food and establish more healthy eating habits, how do you pack a healthy lunchbox that won’t return home untouched?
Click here to read about good nutrition for kids.
You might also want to read about how you can lower your salt intake.