Parenting is all about adapting and changing with our kids as they move from one stage to the next. Our children’s school-going years are an important time for us to teach them the importance of healthy eating.
By the time they go to school, children are generally a little more open to trying different foods and are developing their foodie likes and dislikes. They are also starting to learn about different foods and their nutritional impact.
According to Zelda Ackerman, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Diabetics in SA (ADSA), the primary school-going age is an ideal time for parents to set their children up for a lifetime of healthy eating. “What happens around food in both the home and school is really important to ensure optimal nutrition for growing bodies. It also impacts their ability to focus and learn in the classroom and achieve in sports and other physical activities.”
During your child’s school-going years, it’s essential to get a good start to the day in the form of a sufficient balanced breakfast. It’s typical for school-going children to need to eat four to five times a day, which means their snacks are really important.
She says what we pack in our kids’ lunchboxes also depends on their age and after-school activities. Older children participating in late afternoon after school activities may need a morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack in their lunchbox.
HOW TO PACK A HEALTHY LUNCHBOX
- Include high-fibre carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread, wholewheat wrap or high fibre crackers such as Provitas. Choosing a high fibre option ensures they stay fuller for longer, and have a more sustained level of energy.
- Add a fruit like an apple, naartjie, banana or nectarine.
- Pop in some vegetables such as sweet pepper strips, cucumber wedges or carrot sticks.
- Include a protein – a chicken mayo sandwich with the high-fibre bread or add chicken drumsticks, meatballs, biltong or cheese.
- Make sure they have their freshly filled up water bottle to meet their fluid needs. You can add a sprig of mint, a lemon slice or a few blueberries if they prefer flavoured water. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages that contribute towards obesity and tooth decay.
- If your child will be having a longer school day, add extra portions of fruit and veg and raw nuts and consider a yoghurt or smoothie. Older kids may also need an extra sandwich and additional protein to help preserve lean muscle mass.