The best foods to pack in a school lunch box – and the items you MUST avoid

The best foods to pack in a school lunch box – and the items you MUST avoid

As children all over Australia prepare to start a new school year, busy parents are wondering how they can improve their kids' lunch boxes.And heal

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As children all over Australia prepare to start a new school year, busy parents are wondering how they can improve their kids’ lunch boxes.

And health experts have put together the perfect, nutritionally balanced lunch boxes to help families prepare fresh, healthy and exciting foods for their children.

As modern school canteens succumb to strict health guidelines, parents can ensure their children are in tip top shape by packing a variety of nutritious lunches from each of the five food sources.

Healthy Lunch Box, an initiative from Cancer Council NSW, explains the ideal lunch box should contain a source of fruit (F), dairy (D), bread and cereals (B&C), vegetables and salads (V), meat (M) and water.

To offer a little inspiration, FEMAIL has rounded up some healthy lunch box ideas.

Scroll down for video 

What's inside? Roast beef, tomato and lettuce sandwich (m); wholegrain crackers with cheese (B&C + D); celery pieces (V); apple (F) and water

What's inside? Roast beef, tomato and lettuce sandwich (m); wholegrain crackers with cheese (B&C + D); celery pieces (V); apple (F) and water

What’s inside? Roast beef, tomato and lettuce sandwich (m); wholegrain crackers with cheese (B&C + D); celery pieces (V); apple (F) and water

Every lunch box should contain five different sources: fried rice with chicken (M + V); baked pita bread with roast beetroot hommus (V); apple (F), plain milk popper (D) and water

Every lunch box should contain five different sources: fried rice with chicken (M + V); baked pita bread with roast beetroot hommus (V); apple (F), plain milk popper (D) and water

Every lunch box should contain five different sources: fried rice with chicken (M + V); baked pita bread with roast beetroot hommus (V); apple (F), plain milk popper (D) and water

Healthy lunch box idea: Leftover lamb meatballs, cheese, Greek yoghurt, corn, grated carrot and lettuce wrap (M); yoghurt (D); fruit salad (F); carrot, celery and capsicum sticks (V); homemade savoury muffin (B&C) and water

Healthy lunch box idea: Leftover lamb meatballs, cheese, Greek yoghurt, corn, grated carrot and lettuce wrap (M); yoghurt (D); fruit salad (F); carrot, celery and capsicum sticks (V); homemade savoury muffin (B&C) and water

Healthy lunch box idea: Leftover lamb meatballs, cheese, Greek yoghurt, corn, grated carrot and lettuce wrap (M); yoghurt (D); fruit salad (F); carrot, celery and capsicum sticks (V); homemade savoury muffin (B&C) and water

Revealed: The snacks and drinks to avoid

  • Processed cheese dip and crackers
  • Dairy yoghurt and desserts
  • Store bought cakes, muffins and pastries
  • Chocolate bars
  • Muesli bars/breakfast bars
  • Lollies
  • Packets of chips 
  • Sweet or flavoured biscuits 
  • Juice popper
  • fruit juice
  • Cordial

So what makes a healthy lunch box?

As a major energy source for the brain and body, grain foods such as bread – wholemeal, multigrain, white, pita or other flat breads makes the perfect school lunch. Rice, Pasta, crispbreads and rice crackers are also good options too.

Aim to include one to two serves of fruit per day as it contains vitamins and fibre. Suitable examples include whole fruits or cut up and placed in containers. 

For vegetables, include snacks like cherry tomatoes, capsicum strips, snow peas, corn cob, as well as carrot, celery or cucumber sticks. You can also include salad in sandwiches or on the side.

For a source of calcium, milk poppers, cheese sticks or a tub of yoghurt are perfect choices for the lunch box.

And finally, add a protein for growing bodies. Lunch boxes can include lean meats, chicken, tinned fish such as tuna or salmon, boiled eggs, baked beans, hommus, nuts and legumes.

What's inside? Bread sushi with tuna (B&C + M); corn cob (V); yoghurt tub (D); strawberries (F); homemade bean muffin (M) and water

What's inside? Bread sushi with tuna (B&C + M); corn cob (V); yoghurt tub (D); strawberries (F); homemade bean muffin (M) and water

What’s inside? Bread sushi with tuna (B&C + M); corn cob (V); yoghurt tub (D); strawberries (F); homemade bean muffin (M) and water

Simple and delicious: Easy pasta salad (V); boiled egg (M); kiwifruit (F); homemade apple and date muffin (B&C); plain milk popper (D) and water

Simple and delicious: Easy pasta salad (V); boiled egg (M); kiwifruit (F); homemade apple and date muffin (B&C); plain milk popper (D) and water

Simple and delicious: Easy pasta salad (V); boiled egg (M); kiwifruit (F); homemade apple and date muffin (B&C); plain milk popper (D) and water

Bread sushi recipe 

Preparation time: 10 minutes – Cooking time: 0 minutes – Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 95g tin tuna in Springwater, drained

4 slices wholemeal bread

1 tbsp mayonnaise

4 leaves little gem lettuce

½ carrot, grated

Method:

Mix the tuna and mayonnaise.

Cut the crusts from the bread and gently roll with a rolling pin to flatten.

Leaving a 1cm gap at the edge, top each slice evenly with a lettuce leaf, grated carrot and then the tuna. Roll up firmly and slice into three ‘sushi’ rounds.

Tip: Add avocado for a creamy alternative and thin cucumber strips for crunch.

Cancer Council has created an exciting new website full of recipes, ideas, tips and even an interactive builder to help busy parents pack the perfect lunch box.

The Healthy Lunch Box shows parents how easy it can be to incorporate more fruits and vegetables – and pack a lunch box that kids will love to eat while setting up habits that have lifelong cancer prevention benefits. 

One in three cancer cases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy weight. But only seven per cent of NSW children eat enough vegetables, and 22 per cent of children are overweight or obese. 

Cancer Council NSW’s Nutrition program manager Wendy Watson said the website helps parents with quick and easy access to healthy recipes and inspiration on how to vary lunch box content.  

‘Parents want to ensure they are providing their kids with the energy and nutrients they need to learn, play and grow, but with increasingly busy schedules this can often be difficult,’ Ms Watson said.

‘We know that a child will eat around 2,500 lunches throughout their time at school, so we wanted to make it as simple as possible for parents to make healthy eating easy, interesting and engaging for their kids. 

‘The lunch box builder is a great way to get your kids involved in what’s in their lunch and it’s a great learning tool, even for parents and the fussiest of eaters.

‘Adding fruit and vegetables to the lunch box every day is a simple way to ensure children are getting the vitamins, minerals and fibre they need to fuel concentration in the classroom, improve their health, and prevent 12 different adult cancers.’

Baked bean mini muffins recipe

Serves: 24 | Preparation time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes | Suitable for freezing

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray

1 tsp olive oil

3 spring onions, finely sliced

¼ small red capsicum, finely diced

1½ cups self-raising flour

½ cup reduced-fat milk

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp margarine, melted

1 zucchini, grated & liquid squeezed out

1 220g tin reduced-salt baked beans

⅓ cup reduced-fat tasty cheese, grated

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a mini muffin tin with oil or line with paper cases.

Heat oil in a small non-stick pan, add the spring onion and capsicum and cook for 2 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and drain on absorbent paper.

Sift the self-raising flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour in the milk, egg and margarine while mixing gently. Fold in the onion mix, zucchini, baked beans and cheese until just combined.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked through and golden. Cool on a cake rack.

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