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8 FEBRUARY 2021

Five steps to pack a healthy lunchbox


We’re really excited to be partnering with The Root Cause to provide our parent community with great tips and tricks for how to stay organised, pack nutritious school lunches, and encourage your children to eat healthily. The following article has been written by the team at https://therootcause.com.au

In Australia, every school term has about 50 days and every school year has about 200 days. That’s a lot of days to pack lunchboxes! Then multiply 200 days by the number of children you have – now that’s a lot of lunchboxes to pack.

Many parents dread packing lunchboxes. Lunchboxes are just another thing on the never-ending to-do list of the administration of family life. But what if we changed our mindset around lunchboxes? What if instead of thinking of lunchboxes as a nuisance, we thought about them as a gift for our children?

They’re a gift because the food we pack for their lunch has the power to nourish their body and brain and help with their learning. Of course, this depends on the quality of the items we pack in their lunchbox. Fortunately, The Root Cause has developed a system to pack healthy lunchboxes in about five minutes a day.


Why are school lunchboxes so important?

For many children, lunchbox food makes up to 30-40% of what a child eats Monday to Friday. That means lunchboxes make a pretty significant amount of the daily intake of what a child eats.

Our kids are all growing. They need food that nourishes them, that supports their growth and development. They need food that helps their concentration and their ability to learn.

Unfortunately, many lunchboxes are loaded with packaged processed foods that do little to nourish our children’s bodies and brains.

Here is what The Root Cause’s research tells us about lunchboxes:

  • 88% of students in The Root Cause’s research brought lunches from home
  • 2% had no lunch
  • The balance bought some or all of their lunch from the canteen
  • 2 packet foods per lunchbox
  • 1 fruit per lunchbox
  • 0.4 vegetables per lunchbox
  • 70% contained a sandwich
  • 73% of sandwiches were white bread
  • 50% of the sandwiches contained a spread such as vegemite, honey, jam

Packing healthy lunchboxes can be simple and convenient, even without packet foods. Follow these five steps to help you pack healthy lunchboxes.


Five steps to pack a healthy lunchbox


1. Pack a fruit

You can’t get more simple or convenient than fruit. It comes in its own packet, and a bonus is that this packet doesn’t impact the environment.

Get your kids involved by asking them what fruit they would like in their lunchbox. Ask your kids to choose one or two types of fruit for the week, then buy them on the weekend. This way, you can rotate the fruit so that each day they have variety.


2. Pack at least one vegetable

Simple again. Ask your kids to choose at least one vegetable, buy them on the weekend. Then include it in the lunchbox. You may have more success with including vegetables if you include a dip too. You can spend a little time on the weekend preparing them by cutting them into bite-sized pieces if you wish. This can save you valuable minutes during the week when things tend to be more stressful.


3. A great main lunch

The Root Cause’s lunchbox study showed 70% of lunchboxes contained a sandwich, but it also showed the majority of these sandwiches are almost devoid of nutrients. But if you pack a great sandwich, it’s totally possible this sandwich will not only support your child’s body and brain but also keep them full, so you do not need to pack loads of snacks.

The secret to a great sandwich should include:

  • a whole grain or sourdough bread, preferably
  • a good quality protein source such as roast chicken or turkey (not the deli meat variety), beef, tofu, beans, etc.
  • a healthy fat such as real butter, avocado, whole egg mayonnaise, or hummus

You can read more about what makes a healthy sandwich here.

If your child is unable to have sandwiches or prefers not to eat them, then a great main lunch could be:

  • leftovers from dinner (this is super easy to pack)
  • a lunch that includes a whole grain source, protein source, and a good fat source

If you’re eating dairy, then include a dairy source in the main lunch or as an extra to it.


4. Add a healthy snack

If you have a great main lunch and have packed fruit and vegetables, you may not need to pack a snack. However, if your child is used to having snacks or wants snacks because their friends have them, including a homemade snack is a good idea.

The benefit of making your own snack is that you know what’s in it, and you can control the amount of sugar you include. And of course, it’s more likely to be additive and preservative-free depending on the ingredients you use.

If you haven’t had time to bake, then consciously choose a snack from the supermarket.

Consciously choosing means ignoring the front of the packet, turning the packet around, and reading the ingredients on the back. Make sure you are happy these ingredients are helping your child’s body and brain.

The Root Cause has published an array of healthy lunchbox snack recipes.


5. Include a water bottle

Water is the only drink your children require at school. They do not need juice or even milk. They can have these at home if you wish them to have them. At school, they need water to keep them hydrated and replace the water they use whilst running around and playing.

Send them to school with a reusable water bottle – nothing else – and your children and their teachers will thank you!


Print this template

This template is available as a printable PDF download.

Be sure to print off this template and laminate it. Then stick it up on the fridge or near where you pack the lunchboxes as a constant reminder.

This template was created in collaboration with Nutritionist Jo Atkinson.

For more lunchbox inspiration and help to empower your kids to make better food choices, join Bel over at https://therootcause.com.au or follow her at Facebook or Instagram.