Its that time of year again…. the uniforms are ready, the bags are packed. Carefree summer evenings are replaced with routine and early bedtimes. Many of us are heaving a sigh of relief now that our children are going back to school, with the challenges of keeping the children entertained or arranging childcare over! Also comes the challenge of packing a healthy, nutritious lunch which the kids will enjoy. This is increasingly difficult with so much conflicting advice, leaving many parents understandably confused as to which is the best option. For example, a drink which is ‘full of vitamins’ may also be packed with hidden sugars or acid.
A balanced, healthy packed lunch should contain:
- Sandwiches – eg ham, cheese, tuna, egg or chicken. NOT chocolate spread, jam, peanut butter or honey.
- A savoury snack – eg sausage rolls, pasty, quiche, cream crackers with butter or cheese, cheese cubes or strings, mini Baby Bell cheese or pasta salad.
- Fruit/raw vegetables – eg carrot sticks, cucumber batons, slices of peppers, baby tomatoes.
- Yogurt– although high in sugar (approx 2 teaspoons of sugar per small pot) it is ok as a dessert at a mealtime but NOT as an in between meal snack.
- Drink– ideally water, although at meal times only very dilute squash or diluted fruit juice as an alternative, but NEVER fizzy drinks or sugary milkshakes.
Try to vary your child’s packed lunch to keep them interested in new flavours and tastes. Kids like colourful and funny shaped food so you could always use small shallow plastic pots and fill them with food in shapes to make faces, eg tomatoes for eyes, cucumbers for eyebrows, carrot for a nose and a slice of pepper for a smile? Kids also like the surprise of opening little boxes to see what silly thing you have done to make them smile or laugh – eg draw a funny picture on their banana skin or write a message on a small orange. Talk to your child about what they enjoy eating and encourage them to make healthy options. Our responsibility as parents is to help our children make the right choices so that they come to no harm. Try not to give up if they come home complaining they didn’t like anything – ask them what they didn’t like and why and ask them what they would like as a healthy alternative.
WARNINGS – these foods have VERY high sugar or fat content
- Cereal bars, jam, peanut butter, chocolate spread and chocolate bars
- Crisps – these are low sugar but high in salt and fat
- Sweets (even small packets!) should not be encouraged as every day foods. Dried fruits eg raisins are ok at meal times but not to be encouraged for snacking as these are also high in sugar
FoodSwitch UK: a free app which allows you to scan food labels with your smartphone, displaying the nutritional information in a handy traffic light system, offering healthy alternatives where appropriate
The best way to try to manage your children’s diet so that their teeth are not damaged is by encouraging them to eat well three times a day and any snacking between meals should be completely sugar free, for example fruit, raw veg, or toast with butter only.
Our Oral Health Educators are on hand at the practice to offer specialist dietary advice and help with oral hygiene – call 01443 812559 (Ystrad Mynch) or 01443 451851 (Nelson)