A nutritionally balanced lunchbox is important in providing your child with the foods he or she needs for healthy development. Putting this into practice can sometimes be tricky, but a simple rule of thumb is that a healthy lunchbox should include one or more items from each of the following food groups:

Fruit and Vegetables – try changing the way you present the fruit – fruit salad, puree,dried fruit and so on are all a welcome change to a simple piece of fruit. Alternatively raw vegetable crudites or batons with a healthy dip such as hummus always go down well with our children

Dairy foods – Important to build bone density during the growing years, it is often preferable to include a piece of traditional cheese rather than a highly processed string or dipper. Try including feta or mozzarella in a wrap filling for a twist. Fruit yogurts are always popular but check the label for added sugars and preservatives.

Protein – the ham in the sandwich and vital for keeping those hunger pangs at bay; protein foods boost concentration, memory and attention span! Try to use lean meats such as ham, chicken, beef or turkey. Fish and eggs are also good nutritious sandwich fillings (if a little smelly!) especially oily fish such as sardines, trout, mackerel which are high in omega 3 fatty acids and help development of the brain and nervous system.

Starchy carbohydrates – Try to use wholegrain and granary breads, pittas, bagels and tortillas as wraps instead of plain white bread. Shaped sandwiches make a fun change so cookie cutters come in useful sometimes. Couscous, Bulgar, rice and noodles all make great bases for delicious mixtures of chopped vegetables, meat and cheese.

Drinks – Avoid sugary and fizzy drinks. Cartons of pure juice or smoothies are preferable. You can also freeze the carton overnight to ensure that the contents of your lunchbox stay cool right the way through to lunchtime.

Soon we’ll talk about a “shopping list” of items that are great lunchbox foods, and once you are armed with that you’ll be able to create varied, nutritious and exciting lunchboxes for your children without any last minute rushing around or shopping trips.

Richard Tyler runs the kiddies kitchen babyfood delivery service selling organic baby food and feeding accessories, and lunchboxesetc.co.uk – the lunchbox site

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