Healthy Packed Lunch
Healthy Food for Children

Dietitian, Juliette Kellow with ideas for kids healthy food. How to do healthy packed lunches for children and how to give them healthier snacks.

Healthy Food for Kids

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Food for Healthy Packed Lunches

Around half of all children take their lunch to school – that’s 5.5 billion packed lunches every year. Unfortunately, many of them are unhealthy!

According to a Food Standard’s Agency study, nine out of 10 packed lunches contain foods high in sugar, salt and saturates and fewer than half contain fruit. Here’s how to pack a nutritious lunch for your kids…

  • Use wholegrain or wholemeal bread, rolls and pitta and try ciabatta, mini baguettes, bagels and raisin or sun dried tomato bread for variety
  • Pack pasta or rice salads instead of sandwiches from time to time
  • Cut fat by using less butter, spread or mayo in sandwiches and choose low-fat fillings like lean ham, turkey, chicken, tuna in water, cottage cheese, Edam or banana
  • Add two portions of fruit – don’t just stick to apples and pears, though. For variety, add grapes, fruit salad, a slice of melon, a small box of raisins or a can of fruit in juice
  • Include cherry tomatoes, carrot and pepper sticks and add salad to sarnies
  • In the winter, fill a flask with vegetable, tomato or carrot soup – or even a casserole or stew.
  • Replace cakes, biscuits and chocolate with scones, fruit bread or low-sugar cereal bars (check the labels)
  • Swap fizzy drinks for water, unsweetened fruit juice, fruit smoothies, cartons of semi-skimmed milk or unsweetened yogurt drinks.

Healthy Snacks for Children and Teenagers

  • Fresh fruit – chop it into bite-sized pieces for young children to make it easier to eat or buy packs of ready-prepared fresh fruit slices or chunks
  • Mini boxes of dried fruit such as raisins or small packs of apricots or mixed fruit
  • Small packs of chocolate-covered raisins or nuts (avoid giving nuts to young children because of the risk of choking)
  • Chopped up vegetables such as carrot, celery and pepper sticks and cherry tomatoes with a favourite dip (look for those low in salt and fat if you’re buying ready-made dips)
  • Fresh popcorn made without salt or sugar
  • Wholemeal toast with peanut butter and banana or low-fat soft cheese and tomato
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Unsweetened yogurt drinks or a pot of low-fat fruit yogurt or fromage frais
  • High-fibre cereal with semi-skimmed milk
  • Wholemeal sandwiches filled with lean meat, chicken, tuna in water, cheese or egg and salad.
  • Small packets of unsalted nuts and seeds – try mixing with dried fruit.

Kids Healthy Eating Tips

Whilst it’s best to encourage healthy eating among the whole family, some children may be reluctant to change their eating habits. Here are some tips to get children eating healthily without them even realising…

  • Add more veggies to favourite dishes – for example, add finely sliced mushrooms to Bolognese, finely chopped red pepper to tomato sauces and steamed leeks to mashed potato
  • Serve big portions of veggies they like – sweetcorn, carrots and peas are often popular.
  • Mix together grated carrot and Red Leicester cheese and use to fill sandwiches and jacket potatoes – the colours blend so well they may not notice the carrot.
  • Buy lower-fat versions of sausages, burgers and oven chips and grill or oven bake them rather than frying. Alternatively, make your own homemade burgers and swap chips for homemade potato wedges – simply cut potatoes in their skins into wedges, brush with a little olive oil and bake in the oven until they are soft in the middle and crispy on the outside.
  • Buy lower-fat versions of crisps and biscuits and opt for the smallest bags available.
  • Add barley, beans or lentils to soups, stews and other meaty dishes – children won’t notice baked beans in a cottage pie or lentils in a stew.
  • Buy sugar-free squashes and fizzy drinks – if the kids complain, pour them into empty bottles of the standard variety when they’re not looking.
  • If children won’t eat wholemeal or granary bread, try high-fibre white bread for sandwiches and toast.
  • If you can’t get your kids to give up sugary cereals, mix them with lower sugar varieties such as a handful each of Frosties and Cornflakes, or Rice Krispies and Coco Pops
  • Use whole-wheat pasta in pasta bakes – when mixed with sauce it’s impossible to tell it’s not white
  • For children who are resistant to brown rice or wholemeal pasta, cook half of each and then mix together.

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