Taking the guess work out of back-to-school lunches

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Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) paediatric dietitian Eden Mansell

With students getting ready to head back to school next week, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) paediatric dietitian Eden Mansell is encouraging parents to set their children up for success when it comes to their lunch box.

Ms Mansell said nutrition is key to ensuring children can concentrate while at school as well as have good energy levels for the classroom and playtime, and that begins before they leave home.

“We often miss a bit of protein at breakfast so anything like eggs, any sort of other savoury mince, chicken, even yoghurt and muesli is a good option, baked beans on toast can be another one. Some of our cereals we get at the supermarket can be quite high in our sugars so steering away from those sorts of foods and more towards our lovely wholegrains and proteins,” Ms Mansell said.

She said the theme of good protein should continue into the lunch box.

“So, an egg, some tinned tuna, shredded chicken, cheese – something along those lines – whether that’s in a sandwich or a wrap, or with some pasta, or rice. Those wholegrains will keep those energy levels high and slowly be digested in the body, so we’re not getting big energy spikes and big lows.”

While it can be convenient, if possible, we should avoid packing processed package foods as they won’t sustain the students throughout the day.

“If you do have time there is some great options, like zucchini slice or meatballs, those types of things you can pop in the freezer then put in the lunch box in the morning and they’re ready to go,” Ms Mansell said.

“Just keep water as the only drink in the lunch box, we don’t need to opt for juices or milk drinks unless someone like a health professional has said that you should have them.

“Planning is key to anything you do, so if you don’t plan ahead what you’re going to eat we’re more likely to go for foods that are higher in the sugar and the fats and they’re not as healthy for us.”

Her advice is to not just pack foods you think your child likes, but also include new fruit and vegetables.

“Let them have the autonomy to decide how much they eat, so don’t expect the lunchbox is always going to come home empty – it’s okay if it doesn’t, they might not be having as hungry a day as they did the day before.”

Good eating habits start well before children start school. The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service is holding free parent information across the Sunshine Coast and Gympie in March at the following locations:

Nambour Child Health - 5 Waterfall Road, Nambour
9:30am – 11:30am, Thurs 9th March

Caloundra Child Health – West Terrace
9:30am-11:30am, Thurs 16th March

Gympie Child Health – 20 Alfred Street
9:30am-11:30am, Thurs 23rd March

“For parents who have kids aged 1 to 6 years who want to know more about how they can help them if they’re a fussy eater, how they can help them get some ideas for mealtimes, we talk about screen time and how important it is to balance that with physical activity,” Ms Mansell said.

“As well as helping empower parents to really know how to take charge, set the boundaries they need to live a really nice active, healthy lifestyle and set that up for the kids.”