Healthy School Lunch Ideas South Africa

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I’m sure you’ve read a lot about healthy school lunch ideas South Africa and how important it is for our kids to have a nutritious, balanced diet. Well, I’m here to share with you some easy, super-healthy recipes that you can make at home as part of their packed lunch (and yours too!)

I’ve rounded up my favorite 20 school lunch ideas for the South African School Year — recipes that are easy to make and can be easily adapted for the lunchboxes.

Healthy School Lunch Ideas South Africa

When the new school year starts, we know that mothers all over scratch their heads trying to come up with new ideas about what to pack in their kids in their lunch boxes. So, we thought we this might help the cause.

As far as drinks are concerned, water is the best choice every time. We believe strongly that teaching our kids to get into the habit of drinking sweet beverages will only set bad habits for later. However – if your child does a lot of sporting activities and is out in the sun then you may need something that will quench his/her thirst more efficiently and also replace lost electrolytes. In this case, a plain coconut water or one with a splash of fruit juice would be very useful. It has an acquired taste but if you can get your kids to enjoy it, then its miles ahead of any of the sugar and additive packed energy drinks on the market.

Fruit & Vegetables are where you need to start and kids like to have a selection of things to nibble. Providing portions of fruit and vegetables in every lunch pack will make sure they are getting the vitamins, minerals, and fibre they need. All chopped fruit and vegetables can be easily packed into small containers for the lunchbox, making them quick and easy to eat. If you want to slice apples and pears instead of packing them whole then rub a little lemon juice on them to stop the discoloration.

LUNCHBOX IDEAS:

FRUIT & VEGETABLES

  • Cucumber, carrot and celery sticks , mealies, snow peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, red pepper strips.
  •  Fresh fruit eg apple, pear, kiwi fruit, strawberries, orange, grapes, berries and bananas
  • Dried fruit occasionally – raisins, figs, apricots or dates stuffed with nuts.
  • Salad filling in a sandwich, wrap or roll (like iceberg lettuce, grated carrot, avocado, cucumber, beetroot)

Click here to order Dried Cranberries

BREADS & CEREALS

Bread, grains and cereal foods provide important nutrients and energy for busy, growing children. Wholegrain or wholemeal varieties are the best choices.

  • Wholemeal sandwiches, rolls, wraps, pita bread – gluten free where appropriate.
  • Homemade flapjacks and oat bars
  • Scones or homemade muffins
  • Crackers, corn and rice cakes, breadsticks
  • Wholemeal pasta salads
  • Brown rice sushi – if your kids like sushi then making a pot of sticky brown rice and rolling it in seaweed leaves and filling it with crunchy vegetables is delicious and fun to make too.
  • Chickpeas and kidney beans offer slow carbs and served in little pots with corn and red pepper can make a crunchy and tasty salad.

Click here to order Oat & Coconut Crunchie

PROTEINS

  • Cold chicken, tuna or any other oily fish like salmon or mackerel – either with a pasta salad or on wholemeal bread.
  • Hard boiled egg in salad, sandwiches or for a snack
  • Lentil patties (you can make many of these – cook and freeze – if you put them in the lunch box they will have defrosted by lunchtime.
  • Cheese slices or cubes of decent cheddar.
  • Soya yogurts are also an option or soya based products like soy sausages and patties.
  • Nut butters provide both fats and proteins and when served with oatcakes or decent wholemeal bread make a nutritious meal. Try adding sliced bananas for added sweetness and energy.
  • Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame will provide protein and good fats – toasting them slightly will bring out their flavour but be careful not to overdo it.

If your child tolerates dairy well then add small tubs of natural yogurt which you can sweeten with honey or fruit yourself. Avoid the fruit premade kind as it is packed with sugar.

Avoid pre-packed snacks that are high in sodium and instead pop our popcorn kernels with coconut oil and flavour with our Nutritional yeast. It gives the corn a cheesy flavour and packs in loads of B vitamins and nutrients. Buy raw nuts and seeds in bulk and pop them into smaller reusable containers for convenience and a more economical option.

MENU IDEAS

Finally, we would encourage you to have a 2-week rolling menu to make it easier and to take the stress out of having to think up ideas every morning. For example:

Monday – Wholemeal Roll with tuna, celery, and raisins, chopped pineapple, toasted seeds, popped corn, homemade smoothie.

Tuesday – Chickpea, mealie and red pepper salad, cheddar cheese cubes, grapes, Cashew and cranberry mix, Greek yogurt with vanilla and honey.

Wednesday – Corn cakes with peanut butter and banana, strawberries, homemade carrot muffin, chicken drumstick

Thursday – A wholemeal wrap filled with hummus and grated carrot, Apple slices with nut butter dip, dried apricots, boiled egg, homemade crunchie.

Just spending a little time on the weekend planning your kid’s lunches during the week will make all the difference – and get your kids involved so that they can also learn and understand that in order to ensure healthy eating and living a little planning goes a long way.

Healthy School Lunch Box Ideas

If you’re anything like me one of the frustrations of your day is trying to come up with Healthy School Lunch Box Ideas every day! Ones that contain a variety of food groups, look appealing, taste good and actually get eaten!

A recent survey conducted by Nestlé South Africa on the nutritional landscape of the South African population showed that only 49% of children take a packed lunch to school but preparing a healthy lunchbox for your children can ensure that they are getting their daily intake of nutrients and vitamins which is why it’s so essential. Also it is well documented that children learn better when their tummies are full of the “right” type of food. It is also important to remember that a lunch box is essentially your child’s meal for midday – and if this isn’t substantial enough they might only be eating one healthy meal a day at dinner time! Surely not enough for a growing child to develop properly!

Nestlé South Africa wants to help moms to prepare healthier lunchboxes for their children to ultimately create healthier eating habits for the next generation which is why they have put together this cute infographic on what a healthy lunchbox looks like!

“Lunchboxes form an important part of a balanced meal plan and healthy lunchboxes ensure that your children are receiving essential nutrients and the recommended kilojoules to sustain their energy levels, alertness and focus during the school day,” says Naazneen Khan, nutrition health and wellness manager at Nestlé South Africa.

The recommended daily intake for children aged 5 to 10 is 7530 kilojoules. This includes 70g fat (one teaspoon of margarine, mayonnaise, avocado or butter equates to five grams), 85g sugar (this equates to 17 teaspoons of sugar or a tub of yogurt as well as a bite-size chocolate bar and one glass of fruit juice) and 1600mg sodium or 4g salt (this is a ¾ teaspoon of salt for the day).

To provide children with the daily nutrition they require a healthy lunchbox can include:
• Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. You can use brown, wholegrain or seeded bread or rolls, rice or corncakes, Pro-Vitas or pap from the night before as alternatives.
• Lean proteins such as tuna, boiled eggs, beef, chicken or even leftover mince or stew can make for great sandwich fillers.
• Reduced fat dairy such as low fat yoghurt, reduced fat cheese or low fat milk. Ensure these are kept chilled whether in a cooler bag or alongside a frozen water bottle.
• Fruit and vegetables such as strawberries, apple slices, grapes, carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes. Fruit is easy to pack and raw veggies such as cucumber, celery or lettuce work well as a snack or on a sandwich.
• Water to keep them hydrated. As children often prefer flavoured drinks, try adding cordial or squash to their water but try to avoid highly coloured and artificially sweetened options.

The study also revealed that only 48% of children in South Africa claim to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. These are important additions to your child’s diet as they contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. Parents should encourage at least two to three servings of fruit and/or vegetables a day.

A good intake of water is also recommended. The study shows that the average child only consumes four glasses of water a day, which is only 50% of the recommended amount of eight glasses. “Add a smaller glass of water to each meal to ensure that your child stays hydrated especially after physical activities and in the heat of the summer months,” says Khan. Moms could also freeze the bottle of water to keep the lunchbox cool.

Here are some practical tips for preparing a healthy and safe lunchbox:
• Read food labels to ensure that you are choosing products low in saturated fats. These fats include palm kernel oil, coconut oil and butter.
• Avoid foods that have a high sugar content. Sugar can be in the form of corn syrup, fructose, sucrose and dextrose. High salt content, including MSG (monosodium glutamate), should also be avoided.
• Avoid high fat spreads and instead try avocado (with a little lemon to prevent browning) or low fat mayonnaise.
• As a healthy snack between meals offer your children dried fruit, peanuts or popcorn. Roll the popcorn in a sheet of A4 paper to ensure it stays fresh. This will also help with portion control.
• For busy families, prepare sandwiches and lunchboxes the night before and store them in the fridge for easy packing the next morning
• During hot weather avoid milk, yogurt, fish or meat in lunchboxes unless packed in a quality cooler to ensure freshness

Moms may be faced with untouched lunchboxes that don’t provide any nutritional value. To keep lunchboxes interesting involve your children. Encourage them to pack their own lunches with a range of healthy options that they will enjoy. This way you are not only teaching them about nutrition and healthier eating habits, you are also making it a family affair.

Lunchboxes can be exciting and enticing if you vary the content by including food from the different food groups and prepare food differently to avoid boredom. Occasionally include surprises like a bite-sized chocolate or portioned chips as a treat. Peanut butter, sandwich spread and jam can still be staple options for the weekly lunchbox but the key is variety. Keeping lunch interesting will help in get your child to eat better and enjoy their meal.

If this is not working and lunchboxes are coming home untouched, ask yourself:
• Is the lunchbox wrong? Your child may prefer a different lunchbox that’s easier to carry or something simple that can be thrown away.
• Is it the packaging? Children sometimes don’t have the patience to remove difficult packaging and don’t like getting their hands sticky.
• Is the lunch too much? Often children aren’t able to consume as much as they are given in a day. If the child is younger, cut the sandwich into smaller portions or perhaps half a sandwich is more appropriate.
• Is it the way the food is presented? Some children don’t like the skin on fruit. Peel oranges or cut the apple into slices before putting it in the lunchbox.

A while back I received some great suggestions for lunch boxes and thought you might like to get some ideas from these innovative moms!!

A fruit (apples, grapes, naartjies, bananas, pears or fruit salad)
Sandwich with Peanut Butter, Bovril, Ham, Cheese, Jam, Honey, Cottage Cheese, Melrose Cheese Spread etc
Provita or Ryvita or other crackers
Baby tomatoes
Cucumber slices
Carrot Sticks
Yogurt or drinking yoghurt
Dried fruit stick or fruit packs
A small packet of mini tennis/marie biscuits for a treat!
Pasta salad with pesto or tuna
Cheese sticks wrapped in thinly sliced ham
Dried fruit (dried mango or pears, apricots, dates, raisins etc)
Rice cakes (the yoghurt covered ones are yum!)
Corn thins
Cheese wedges or blocks of cheese
Nuts (almonds, peanuts etc) – but only for older kids and check your schools rules about this too!!
Pretzels
Biltong
Droe wors
Fruit packs or liqui fruit left in the freezer overnight
Chicken vienna
Slice of ham
Left-over pizza

Some other great ideas:
Bake a batch of healthy, fruit filled, energy packed muffins on the weekend and have one every day!

Mini pita breads with a filling like: cheese and tomato or vienna’s or ham and cheese with cucumber, also put supper leftovers in them like chicken or mince.

Wraps with salad and or grilled chicken or chicken mayo.

Thank you so much for these ideas moms! Coming up with healthy, affordable and inviting school lunch box ideas for 12 school years (times however many children you have) is a feat worthy of numerous gold medals…. Moms are heroes! We love our moms 😉

What do you usually include in your child’s lunchbox? Do you have any other ideas to add to this list? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. You might even want to print out this suggestion list and stick it on the fridge for some inspiration!

Why not pin this post for future inspiration….

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