Healthy Packed Lunches for the Early Years
A practical guide for parents & carers
A healthy lunch every day will give your child the energy and nutrients they need to grow, develop and learn. The key to a balanced nutritious diet is variety. A healthy balanced and nutritious packed lunch should include foods from the following for food groups:
A portion of potato, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates – These foods provide carbohydrate to give your child energy for the afternoon.
E.g. White or wholegrain bread, rolls, pitta bread or wraps, plain naan bread, bagels, cooked pasta, rice noodles, couscous or potato as salad.
At least one portion of fruit & vegetables – These foods provide vitamins and minerals to help protect against illness.
E.g. Fresh frozen, canned or dried, these can all count towards 5-a-Day; Vegetables: carrot, cucumber, pepper or celery sticks, tomatoes, grated carrot in sandwiches or wraps, sweetcorn, peas o pulses in a salad. Fruits: sliced apple or melon, plums, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, satsumas, chunks of pineapple or dried fruit.
A portion of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins – These foods provide protein, iron and zinc to help your child grow.
E.g. Sliced meat, chicken, fish, sliced egg in sandwiches, rolls or wraps, meat alternatives such as tofu or pulses like kidney beans and chickpeas in salad.
A portion of dairy & alternatives – These foods are a good source of calcium, for strong bones and teeth.
E.g. Yogurt or fromage frais, cheese in sandwiches or wraps, whole milk (for children aged 1-2) or semi-skimmed (for children aged 2 and over)
Practical tips for healthy, safe and tasty packed lunches
- Communicate with your nursery about your child’s packed lunch
- Inform them of any food allergies or intolerances
- Check if they have a food policy
- Ask how they store their food. If lunch bags aren’t kept in the fridge, use a cool bag and a frozen bottle of water or a reusable ice pack.
- Vary lunchbox contents for a good balance of nutrients
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables add colour, texture and are often cheaper and tastier
- Read food labels. Look out for the colour coded nutrition information on the front of packets. Remember the more green on the label., the healthier the choices
Preparing the packed lunch
- Include your child in the shopping, choosing and preparing what goes in their lunchbox, giving them choices within the food groups.
- Wash fruit and vegetables and remove any stones.
- Keep it fresh. Rinsing slices of apple in dilute lemon juice, for example, will stop them turning brown.
- Think sustainably. Use containers and cutlery that can be washed and used again.
- Label your child’s lunch box with their name
This is information is taken from Action for Children. Visit their web-site for loads more information: www.actionforchildren.org.uk