Most of us dread filling our kids lunchboxes in the mornings when we are feeling tired, rushed and about as creative as a piece of cardboard.We want to give our children variety and healthy food, but run out of ideas and end up reverting to the boring old sami. Hopefully this will help a little in that regard. By Sue Moore

Sue Moore   Natural Health Consultant   Tel : 011 675-5743

The aim with lunchboxes is not just to fill the tummy, but to provide sustained fuel for the body and brain, to facilitate optimum functioning at school. What your child eats will affect mood, behaviour, concentration and the ability to learn. It will also affect muscle tone, which again impacts on concentration as well as functional skills like handwriting. If your child's body is battling to maintain efficient and correct postural control, it detracts from the brains' ability to focus on the work at hand.

The brain cannot function properly without: 
balanced glucose levels (i.e.:stable blood sugar) 
:enough healthy fats :minerals and vitamins
:amino acids(the building blocks of protein)
:enough clean water

Some of the ideas below are not necessarily ideal from a Natural Health perspective, but would be better than the traditional white bread and jam sami. Remember, it's about reducing the toxic load on the body, as well as providing the necessary nutrients. Some of the ideas may take a little more time, but we have to realise that we DO pay a price for always going for the quickest and most convenient options.There is a time for convenience foods, but there are healthier convenience foods, to be used when you truly don't have the time.

FRUIT: make it interesting,not just a wrinkly old apple every day.

:small pieces of fresh pineapple on a toothpick (you'd be amazed what children will eat off a toothpick!)

:small Tupperware with strawberry and kiwi fruit pieces, send a small plastic fork to eat with.

:mix some red and green seedless grapes together, in a small plastic packet, so they can see the colours.

:fruit kebabs, using fruit that won't discolour. Cut off the sharp point after threading

By paying attention to colour and texture, you'll find your kids definitely ingest more fruit. Think outside the box, excuse the pun! Little things make a big difference to what they will end up choosing to eat.Eg: wrap a juicy red plum in a leftover Xmas serviette.This prevents "squishing", looks festive and appealing and they can use the serviette to catch the juice as they eat the plum.

DRIED FRUIT: very high in nutrients, but PLEASE, it MUST be preservative free! Dried fruit is usually preserved with sulphur dioxide, which can exacerbate or even trigger allergic reactions and asthma. Rather don't give it at all if you are going to give ones with preservatives. You can get preservative free dried fruit from health shops.The fruit is usually a bit harder and darker in colour. Some children enjoy this chewier texture, if not, soak it from the day before in some purified water and send it as a "stewed fruit cup", with a teaspoon. Or stick to the darker ones like raisins or dates,as those don't need their colour preserved. But even so...READ LABELS!!! Mary-Ann's oil free raisins and sultanas are delicious and preservative free.

I am not a fan of DAIRY as it can cause post nasal drips,coughing, ear ache, digestive discomfort and other problems. I mention this here as many parents send yoghurt to school. If you are doing this, try to slowly replace it with soya or goats milk yoghurt.(Woolies-soya/health shop-soya and goats milk) Although not ideal, as they may still contain sugar and flavourants, at least you will be avoiding the immune response to the dairy.Track down the ones with the least additives and flavour them yourself with fruit, raw honey and/or fructose. Try to cut down or eliminate the cheeses and milk drinks, use goats milk cheese if necessary (Chevin has a small "roll" of goats milk cheese that looks like cream cheese and has a mild taste...not too "goaty"!) If your child often craves cheese they maybe deficient in essential fatty acids, in which case a flaxoil supplement will help. If its calcium you're worried about, we get a more usable form of calcium in nuts and seeds.

RICE CAKES, CORN THINS AND OCCASIONALLY PROVITA: Big choice available now, vary the type and shape. Spread with butter and Marmite, or send a small Tupperware with a ready-made mixture of butter and Marmite, that they can dip their rice cake into. A small lunchbox pack of rice cakes is available at Pick 'n Pay. As you will have gathered, a choice of tiny Tupperware is a worthwhile investment!

AIR-POPPED POPCORN: drizzle with olive oil, add a little salt (Mary-Ann has a range of delicious salts, you can experiment to see which your kids enjoy)

NUTS AND SEEDS: Please always get the RAW, unsalted ones, or your children are taking in damaged fats. These are excellent for stabilising the blood sugar and are a good source of protein.(eg:cashews, almonds, macadamias, sunflower seeds)

CRUDITÉS: you never know until you try what they'll eat! Eg:cucumber and carrot sticks, get a cutter that cuts them in a wavy shape.

FREE-RANGE CHICKEN STRIP SALAD,OR ON A SKEWER: Use skinless chicken breasts, cook slowly to make it tender, season with herb salt. For the skewer, thread chicken, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms etc.

HOME-MADE POTATO SALAD: in small Tupperware, drizzle with olive oil and lemon. If your kids are mayonnaise freaks, get the Organic Mayo from Woolies, the one made with COLD PRESSED sunflower oil. It is expensive, but very good quality, as with most Woolies products! To the potato salad, you can add whatever your kids fancy, like cherry tomatoes, bits of lettuce, or even pieces of soya sausage. Soya products can be controversial as they can be refined, have added "baddies" and some children can be allergic to soya. However, if you get a good quality brand, I feel they are a healthier alternative to constantly over-using animal protein and provide a welcome change. A particularly nice one is the Fry's Original Hotdogs, which taste as close to a "normal" sausage as one can get.(The Fry's Traditional Sausage tastes a bit too much like soya for some people, but experiment to see which your kids will eat)

PASTA SALAD: small Tupperware with some wholegrain pasta, wheat free pasta, or rice noodles, add some tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, peas etc.

HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES TO WHITE BREAD: Whole-wheat pita bread( big one or the mini ones) Look for hidden preservatives! Fill with avocado, hummus, tahini, tomato, lettuce etc.If you add lemon juice to the avo and tell your child to eat it at first break, the avo won't discolour. If you do use peanut butter, go for the sugar free ones.

:Mary-Ann's whole-wheat bread (see her recipe book 1,or buy from Sue Burnham-King,who now stocks all Mary-Ann's products,tel:465-6942)

:Small round seeded rolls from Woolies (they have no preservative)You can put a soya sausage on these, to make a healthier version of a hotdog. If you're going to use sauces, use All Gold tomato sauce, and I see Heinz has recently come out with an organic tomato sauce. If you add a little organic mayo to this, it makes a delicious pink-sauce,which some kids love.

:Toasted rye (preferably a wheat free one, Black Forest Bakery make a wheat free, preservative free, sliced loaf you can keep in your freezer and just take out one slice at a time. Available at health shops)

:Grilled polenta strips with butter and honey, or marmite

:Leftover polenta pizza (to learn how to make polenta,see Mary-Ann's recipe books, or come to a cookery dem at the end of Jan. where I'll be doing polenta pizza and polenta waffles. Contact me for details)

:Homemade soya sausage rolls.Unfortunately, ready made pastry is very refined and has preservatives, but there are recipes available for homemade dough. Simply roll some around a soya sausage (or half a sausage to make a mini one) and bake in the oven.The kids can even do this themselves as a fun Sunday treat. In fact on a Sunday evening is a great time to involve them in the packing of lunchboxes. They eat more when they've chosen the contents themselves. Put out all the stuff they're allowed to choose from and let them get on with it.

TREATS: Use these once a week or preferably for outing days only. If your kids are embarrassed by what's in their lunchbox because its always so different to everyone else's, they won't eat much and food will become an issue at school. I DO feel they need to be educated about WHY you want to give them healthy food, but at the same time we need to have a balance. This is why I've tried to suggest healthier versions of common lunchbox foods.

:Lays lightly salted chips have the least additives
:Health shops are starting to stock more and more alternatives to sweets...just stay away from the ones that say"sugar-free" but are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Investigate your local health shop.
:There are many different carob goodies now available,, just read labels, as just because its carob, does not mean its healthy.Check for flavourants,colourants etc.
:I do NOT recommend chocolate, it has two other stimulants in it besides caffeine, not to mention the refined sugar, damaged fats etc. BUT, if you are trying to wean a"chocoholic" child onto healthier treats, start by changing to Beacon chocolate, it has the least amount of additives. Then slowly move them onto carob.
Small rice cakes with different toppings (Woolies, health shops, P n Pay) Carob, blueberry etc.

HEALTHIER CONVENIENCE FOODS: Mary-Ann has a range of lunchbox treats, to use when you are truly have no time. Available from Sue Burnham-King.These include:Veg. pies, muffins, orange shortbread, ginger biscuits, coconut and date balls, plain or carob crunchies, halva bars, pecan and date carob bars, seed bars.

DRINKS:Your child should be getting a BIG bottle of purified/spring water every day! They do NOT need juice every day, it is very acidic.However, if you are going to send something in addition to the water, use the following: Carton juices like Ceres, or the P n Pay brand, which are sugar and preservative free...diluted with water. If your kids are not used to diluted juice, start by only adding a tiny amount of water and increase it VERY slowly so they don't notice. When it comes to their health, you have permission to be sneaky!
:Woolies has an lovely range of tinned fizzy juices, no additives, (great for outings so your kids feel they've also got a "cold-drink"), as well as other fruit and veg. juices in plastic bottles (eg:carrot, or strawberry and cranberry) Buy one and dilute it.
:PnPay: Ceres have fruit and veg juices in glass bottles.Transfer into kids juice bottles and dilute.
:Appletiser or Grapetiser.
:Homemade iced tea: Experiment, with your kids as "taste testers". Tell them you need their help with some new recipes you are trying out. Allow them to mix their own combinations,eg: Peppermint tea (very nice cold!), with fructose to sweeten.
:Rooibos, lemon and fructose
:Herbal infusions with raw honey.(herbal tea can be quite acidic,so don't give every day)
MAKE SURE ALL TEAS ARE CAFFEINE FREE.

In winter:warm herbal teas
:soup in a flask
:Mary-Ann's Malted Carob Drink (like hot chocolate) Can make with soya milk,or water.

BEAR IN MIND

Introduce changes very slowly, particularly with fussy eaters. Don't try all the ideas in one lunchbox, their taste buds need time to adjust to new flavours and textures. If your kids have only ever eaten white bread, they are likely to object to a sudden change to rye. But they WILL adjust if you PERSEVERE! When you give the body what it needs, it will slowly start wanting those things. My children will now,after a long time, REQUEST rye bread as they find the coarser, more chewy texture filling and satisfying. That's not to say they don't sometimes want white bread, but then I buy the Italian Rolls made with olive oil and no preservatives. Research has shown that within 5-15 days of an improvement in the diet, there is already a measurable increase in the number of T-cells(immune fighter cells).

EXAMPLE OF AN UNHEALTHY LUNCHBOX: 
commercial white bread with margarine and jam
:biscuits
:orange coloured chips
:sweets or chocolate
:red, green or blue juice, an energy drink, or a cold-drink.
This is LADEN with refined sugar, refined carbs, artificial additives and damaged fats.Feed this to your child daily and I can GUARANTEE they are heading for trouble, if they aren't in it already! It will play havoc with their blood sugar, immune, endocrine and digestive systems as well as their general brain function.

TWO EXAMPLES OF A HEALTHY LUNCHBOX: 
Whole-wheat sami with avo and tomato( butter if need a spread)
:Sunflower seeds and raw almonds
:Carob crunchie
:Preservative free dried fruit
:Water,diluted juice
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:Kiwi fruit and orange segments
:Raw cashew nuts
:Seed bar
:Two hard boiled eggs, OR..Tupperware of chicken strip salad
:Water and homemade iced tea
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HAPPY,HEALTHY EATING!

Sue Moore   Natural Health Consultant   Tel : 011 675-5743

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