The 2024 school year has kicked off and parents are back to the challenge of the daily packing of nutritious and appealing lunch boxes. Time constraints, especially on weekday mornings, picky eating, getting the nutritional balance right and cost concerns are all hurdles that busy parents must grapple with. What goes into the lunch box, and what gets eaten during the school day are really important. Lunch, snacks and hydration make a significant impact on our kids’ energy levels and their abilities to concentrate and perform, both cognitively and physically throughout the school day.
This year, Juicy Delicious and Rediscover Dairy have teamed up to provide inspiration and dietitian advice to make mastering school lunch boxes much easier. An important feature of school lunch boxes is the inclusion of vegetables and fruits every day. When South African children go back to school in January, it is still stone fruit season with its abundance of peaches, nectarines, and plums available throughout the entire first term. Firm, yet juicy yellow cling peaches, succulent plums and deliciously sweet nectarines are all excellent lunch box fruits because they travel well as whole fruits. They are refreshing on a hot school day, packed with fibre and immune-boosting vitamins C and A, and loved by children as much as any sweet treat. Of course, South African grown stone fruit also blend perfectly with dairy. A fresh peach milkshake or nectarine yoghurt smoothie makes for an ideal, nutrient-dense drink on-the-go.
Maretha Vermaak, the registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy says, “When it comes to nutritional balance, parents need to ensure that school lunch box foods are contributing to their child’s needs for protein, energy, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. This is where dairy shines. Luckily, kids love dairy, so it is an ideal solution for picky eaters. Milk, cheese, maas and yoghurt offer a unique nutritional spectrum including high quality protein, energy and calcium. Dairy is also a vital source of vitamins such as A, B2, and B12, as well as potassium and zinc. So, you have an exceptional nutritional profile, as well as affordability and versatility. This ensures that you easily include dairy in the school lunch box so that your child is getting the recommended 2 to 3 servings of dairy every day.”
Parents can elevate their school lunch box game by using child-friendly compartmentalised lunch boxes, such as the newly launched ADDIS Munch On The Go Bento Box which is proudly manufactured in South Africa. Ideally- sized, with an easy opening, kid-friendly clip, it includes a leak-free POD for a yoghurt, dip or sauce as well as a removable tray for carrot sticks or wholewheat crackers, or slices of nectarines. Fill the main section with a cheese sandwich or chicken, feta and veg wrap and pack a peach or plum, nuts or mini tomatoes in the smaller compartment. With neat, clearly defined sections, picky eaters can navigate their way around their lunch box without feeling overwhelmed and find something they like in every nook.
Here are 6 tips to master lunch box prep:
Plan ahead – Include lunch box prep in your weekly meal planning and shopping. Create a weekly list to focus on buying a variety of healthy, fresh lunch box foods. If you limit biscuits, sweets and crisps stored in your grocery cupboards then there’s less chance they will end up in the lunch box on a busy morning.
Involve your kids – Consider your child’s food preferences and include your kids in the lunch box preparation process. Make it a fun and interactive experience.
Daily dairy – You need to aim to include at least 2 to 3 servings of dairy in your child’s daily diet. Luckily there are many ways to include milk, cheese, yoghurt and maas in the school lunch box. You can freeze a small yoghurt or fruit juice to keep the lunch box cold.
Always include fruits and vegetables – Each day prioritize fresh fruits and vegetables based on what is seasonally available which helps to meet daily energy, fibre, vitamin and mineral needs.
Avoid unhealthy foods – Steer clear of fried, sugary, and high-salt foods to promote overall health and cultivate healthy eating choices from an early age.
Choose healthy beverages – Include low-calorie, healthy, nutrient-rich beverages like milk, or water instead of fizzy drinks and sugary cordials.
By incorporating these tips and keeping in mind the delightful combination of dairy and stone fruits, parents can ensure that their children start the year with lunch boxes that are nutritious and delicious, setting the stage for a successful school year.
For more inspiration and recipes, follow @juicydelicioussa on Instagram or visit www.juicydelicious.co.za