Creative Lunchbox for Your Child

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Lunchbox_cHave you ever wondered why schoolchildren's learning, concentration span and behaviour tends to deteriorate after lunch? The answer lies hidden in their lunchbox. Less than half the children in US have school dinners so it is important that lunchboxes provide a tasty and nutritious alternative. A recent survey found that an average lunchbox contains potato crisps and a chocolate bar and very few children bring fresh fruit. A high fat, high salt, refined carbohydrate meal such as this will leave your child feeling tired and unable to concentrate. Also a diet high in saturated fat and salt can lay the foundations for heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.

A healthy lunchbox should contain a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein, together with some fresh fruit and a drink. Your child's attention, behaviour and learning in the afternoon should then be just fine.

Making the lunchbox more appetising

When your child brings his lunch to school, he carries a little piece of home with him. When my three children each had to take in lunchboxes it became a challenge to come up with something new to entice them to eat healthy food and bring a smile to their faces after a long morning at school. Simple touches can make all the difference like drawing a race on your child's banana with a felt pen and decorating it with stickers or cutting sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters.

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You can control what goes into your child's lunchbox but you can't control what goes into your child. I know it may seem obvious but make sure you send your child to school with food in his lunchbox that he likes. It is often a good idea, time permitting, to let your child get involved helping to pack his own lunchbox or perhaps discuss with him the night before what he would like to include the following day.

Your child will probably only eat food that he feels comfortable eating in the school cafeteria. Most children are greatly influenced by peer pressure and just because your child likes eating raw cauliflower with a dip at home, he may not be comfortable eating this sort of food at school. So you have to find foods that suit your nutritional standards which are also acceptable among his social set.

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Most children will leave food that takes a lot of effort to eat as they want a quick re-fuelling stop leaving maximum time for the playground. For example, give clementines (mandarins) already peeled and cover with plastic wrap or cut kiwi fruit in half and let them scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon.

If your child likes potato crisps but you don't want him to fill himself up by eating a whole bag, put some in a plastic bag and tie the top or wrap some potato crisps in foil.

Something hot for winter

As the colder weather sets in it is a good idea to include something hot in a lunchbox. A wide-mouthed mini-thermos flask would be ideal for serving up a delicious cup of homemade or good quality bought soup, which is both warming and nutritious. The perfect way to keep your child warm during lunchtime play.

Something cool for summer

Warm conditions encourage the growth of bacteria, so it is very important to keep lunchboxes cool. For the summer get a lunchbox with a built-in ice pack to keep food fresh. Alternatively, put an individual carton of juice in the freezer overnight and transfer it to your child's lunchbox in the morning and by lunchtime it will have defrosted but will have helped keep the food fresh.

Sandwiches

Sandwiches don't need to be boring. Presentation is very important to children. Vary the types of bread you use to make sandwiches. Try bagels or French, Italian or raisin bread. Bread doesn't always need to be buttered, especially if you use ingredients like cream cheese or peanut butter. Wrap sandwiches in non-PVC plastic wrap or aluminium foil or pack them in small plastic lunch-boxes to prevent them from getting squashed. Here are some quick ways to turn an ordinary sandwich into something special.

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Novelty-shaped sandwiches: use a variety of cutters to shape sandwiches into animals, people or cars. Popular fillings are peanut butter, cream cheese and cucumber, Marmite or Promite and shredded lettuce, egg mayonnaise and salad cress.

Mini-pitta pockets: these make a welcome change. Possible fillings are flaked tuna with sweetcorn or sliced turkey with Swiss cheese and salad.

Mis-matched sandwiches: you can encourage your child to eat wholemeal bread by making sandwiches  from one slice of wholemeal and one slice of white bread. Cut them into four and pack with the alternate triangles uppermost.

Tortilla roll-ups: make a change by giving your child food wrapped in a parcel like the Delicious chicken fajitas or Tuna tortilla roll-ups. Flour tortillas are perfect for savoury fillings.

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