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Pack smart: Lunchboxes for kids

 | August 16, 2012

Tips for healthier kids’ lunches.


When chef extraordinaire and all-around nice boy from Essex Jamie Oliver went on a solo crusade to rid England’s school canteens off junk food and unhealthy choices from its menu, it made some parents stand up and take notice. For better or worse, while highlighting both parents’ and government’s lackadaisical attitude on food and nutrition, Oliver managed to teach Great Britain – and the world – one thing: Instill good eating habits among the young now or face a growing problem of childhood obesity and health problems.

Statistics from the American Obesity Association shows an alarming increase in childhood obesity among American kids in the past two decades. In Malaysia, available data points to as much as 15 percent of toddlers and preschoolers being overweight and obese; and the numbers double for primary school children.

Kids depend on grown ups to nudge them to the right path when it comes to good foods to consume. Today’s working parents may find it a challenge to pack their kids with homecooked meals and lunches but, says nutritionist Abby Advani, parents can adopt healthy habits that make packing school lunchboxes less time consuming.

“A healthy kids’ lunchbox need to have two things: free of fat and a balance of protein and carbohydrate.” The latter is especially important as it gives children the energy to last the day in school. There are plenty of options to fill in their lunchbox that don’t require much cooking or preparation.

For example, you can swap white bread with whole grain options. Whole grains offer complex carbohydrates that take a longer time to break down which in turn, let children finish the day with some energy left to spare. Make it interesting by going beyond breads by providing them whole grain tortilla or even crackers.

The same goes with rice. “You can still give them rice but switch to brown rice or brown rice noodles,” says Abby. “These are some of the best energy-packed foods kids can have during the day.”

Fruits are also an easy option to pack and prepare. Give them as many colourful fruits as possible. They’re not only appeal to their appetite, but colourful fruits are full of phytonutrients that protect against the body’s oxidation. Try to give them whole fruits without cutting them up, as fruits lose some nutrition after being cut up. Apples are a good choice; or consider strawberries, peaches, bananas or pears.

Cheeses are another easy go-to foods for packing. However, they are also high in saturated fasts. Opting for lower fat choices such as Edam, Camembert and Brie can give them plenty of calcium without compromising their health.

It goes without saying that you should be choosy about beverages, too. Encourage your kids to drink lots of water and avoid sodas and other sugary drinks as much as possible. “Once parents teach their young the value of having a balanced and nutritious meal, these children will grow up to make the same responsible decisions,” adds Abby. And that’s how we can hope to break the cycle of childhood obesity.


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