Kids Lunch 🗓 Find Out How To Get Their Nutrition Right!
Lunch For Kids – What They Need
Making kids lunch is something most parents do each day. Let’s be honest – it can be something of a chore at times. Additionally, it’s hard to make imaginative choices all the time… and we need to make sure that their lunches are nutritionally balanced. So how can you be sure that when you’re making lunch for kids, that you’re getting it right? We’ve got the essentials covered in this handy guide to making a healthy lunch for kids.
1. Carbs and calories
Lunchtime is such an important meal for little ones and needs to make up a third of their daily intake. For the average 5-10 year old the daily recommended allowance is 1800 calories. So, for the average lunch for kids you should be giving them around 600 calories.
That midway point in the school day means they need their energy topping up so they can learn effectively but remember not all energy is created equal. Your child needs slow releasing energy that can sustain them throughout the afternoon and that means carbohydrates and protein are important at lunch.
Pasta salad, wholemeal bread and potatoes are all good forms of slow energy releasing carbs that can see them through until home time.
2. Cover all bases
The best lunch for kids has to deliver all the right nutrition – and be a little bit exciting too. Keep things fresh and varied (check out our recipes page [insert link] for inspiration), but don’t forget to cover off all nutritional bases by making meals that are (this bit is important!) – high in protein, veg, fruit and fibre, but low in fat, salt and sugar. Got it? Good!
3. Fruit and veg
It’s easy to talk about ‘fruit and veg’ and ‘five a day’ but the best thing you can do for your child is to give them a rainbow of fruit and veg as each colour of food has different nutritional benefits. Between five and eight portions of fruit and veg a day is what you should be aiming for and a portion size is approximately what your child can fit into their hand.
There are some things to steer clear of. ‘Juice drinks’ rarely contain a portion of fruit and can be very high in sugar.
Also make sure you limit smoothies and dried fruits as these are high in sugar, despite having a high fruit content.
An easy way to get fruit or veg into your child is to make it into a snack – pineapple chunks, baby toms, strawberries, celery sticks, or blueberries, kiwis, bananas etc, they all make handy snacks with minimal prep required, so be sure to include two of these in every lunch. The less ‘processed’ your fruit and veg portions the better.
4. Protein Power
Growing up ‘big and strong’ is what a lot of kids are obsessed with, so help them to do so by making sure their lunch has an element of protein. It’s vital for their growth and development. One portion of protein at lunch is sufficient. Great sources include nut butters, chicken, oily fish like tuna, eggs, kidney beans, chickpeas and pulses like lentils.
5. Calcium is cool
It’s a bit of a cliché but growing bones benefit massively from calcium. If you’re automatically thinking about milk we don’t blame you but there are other places you can get calcium from to boost your child’s bones. Try cheese, yogurt and fromage frais, leafy veg and fish. Salmon and sardines are fantastic sources too!
6. Lunch for kids – keep it creative
If you’re making lunch for kids it never hurts to present it in a playful way! Simple ideas can be very effective – from drawing a face on a boiled egg shell, to writing their name on a banana, freezing some blueberries for them to pick on or making an animal face in their sandwich, little ones do appreciate the extra effort. The best thing is that these touches make lunch more exciting and something for them to look forward to. And that’s definitely worth the effort!
7. Shove the sugar
There are so many convenience foods out there that promise to make making lunch for kids that much easier for parents but remember that their ingredients may not be as innocent as they sound. A lot of pre-packaged food has high levels of salt, fat and sugar. If you can limit how much you depend on these you’ll not only know exactly what your child is eating, but you’ll probably save a lot of money too! What’s not to love?
8. Dairy does it
Dairy has a lot of benefits but it’s one of those food groups that needs to be carefully limited too. Children need just one portion of dairy at lunchtime. If you’re making lunch for kids you can include a small yoghurt, or a 15-20g portion of cheddar in their sandwich. For soft cheeses you can have up to 25g, or if your child likes milk, one small glass is perfect. It’s just a matter of knowing how much is too much.