I’ve been doing a bit of research on what the current recommendations are for a healthy lunchbox. Around the world food recommendations vary from region to region, dependant on local cultures etc, but here in the UK the NHS Choices website has a great visual recommendation of overall daily food intake in the form of the ‘Eatwell Plate’, pictured below.
As you can see, there are five main food groups, which should be eaten in roughly the proportions shown on the plate over the course of the day. When trying to come up with my own healthy lunch boxes, I will aim to cover the four main food groups when possible, and minimise the high fat/sugar food group (in theory anyway, I’m sure little treats will creep in from time to time!).
I find it interesting to see that a fairly high proportion of starchy foods are recommended; I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard a lot about the ‘evils’ of carbohydrates in the constant battle for a better figure over the years. I sometimes have to remind myself that children are constantly growing, and if Small Child is anything to go by; constantly on the move, so they find it much easier to burn up foods that might go straight to the waistline of a somewhat less energetic adult. Interestingly enough there is a ‘school lunch’ section on the NHS website which recommends that a third of the lunchbox should be made up of starchy foods.
So for school lunches I will be aiming to provide the following: plenty of starchy foods, plenty of vegetables & fruit (with more emphasis on vegetables where possible), a portion of dairy and a portion of protein. I personally sometimes find it a bit of a struggle to get enough protein in our daily diets, as although we are not vegetarian, we don’t eat a huge amount of meat or fish, so this is something I need to work on. I will also try to keep in mind that the balance should be achieved over the course of the day, so if for example we have boiled egg with breakfast and a decent portion of meat in the evening meal, it won’t be so important to include protein in the lunch box that day.
I’m currently working on a list (update: you can now read and download the list here) of ideas for different foods that I could put into a lunch box. I’m hoping that this will make it easier for me to come up with plenty of combinations of foods so that I can provide a decent variety of lunches over the course of each term. I think that variety is very important for two reasons; to keep Small Child interested in eating the food in his lunchbox, and to provide a really good range of nutrients.
To learn more about the current recommendations and the Eatwell plate, head over to the NHS Choices website, which has plenty of information on the subject. There is also a specific section about school lunches. Another website that I’ve found useful is Change 4 Life, which has sample menus available to give you some lunchbox ideas.