In a world dominated by the constant temptation of sugary snacks, fizzy drinks and supersized junk food it’s often hard to remember what a balanced diet should look like. When it comes to lunch boxes, getting this right is pretty key, as lunch has to provide fuel for the entire day, particularly an active and sport-filled one. But what do all the elements of a balanced diet look like?
Carbohydrates, found in pasta, bread and potatoes and grains such as barley and millet, provide essential energy and are also responsible for delivering fibre, iron and B vitamins to our bodies, all essential nutrients for functions like digestion. Fats in dairy products such as milk, olive oil, lean red meat and poultry are key to the absorption of certain nutrients. However, remember that consuming too much saturated fat such as that in cheese, cream, butter, sausages and cakes leads to high cholesterol and weight problems. The Minerals food group is where you can go crazy as fruit and vegetables make up the largest part of it and bring only good things like calcium for bone strength and iron for blood health to our daily diets. Protein is another essential element in the daily diet as it delivers growth and also enables the body to repair itself after an accident or injury. Lean meat and fish, eggs and dairy products are a good source of protein, as are beans and poultry.
Getting the balance of all these elements right in a packed lunch can be a challenge for any parent but a healthy, tasty lunchbox is by no means out of reach. Here are a few ideas on how to get it right:
Don’t underestimate the power of fruit and veg. We all know that most kids would prefer an ice cream to a carrot, but the bright colours, the crunchy, juicy textures and the fact that they can be grabbed by little hands make fruit and veg a great healthy lunch box tool.
Try to include two pieces of fruit a day – a box of raisins, some dried apricots, fresh strawberries, a sweet mini banana, tinned peaches or a fresh pineapple slice are all more interesting than the standard apple option.
You can make vegetables much more attractive by chopping them into batons and making them into dippers for hummus or salsa, or provide all the tools for dipper wraps – slow release carb wholemeal tortillas, veg such as celery, carrot, baby spinach, cucumber and red pepper – and let kids make their own wraps to dip. And don’t forget your ‘5-a-day’ is a MINIMUM recommendation, not a limit!
The ‘treat’ is essential – but it doesn’t have to be a high fat, sugary treat. Low fat fromage frais, a small handful of peanuts, salted popcorn, low fat custard or rice pudding can deliver an equally satisfying sweet hit without the energy low that can follow consumption of lots of sugar.
Opt for energy – particular if your kids are running around all day at a sports camp they need energy giving foods to keep them going. A tub of brown rice salad, cold wholewheat pasta in a rich tomato sauce, mini frittatas packed full of veg, pitta breads stuffed with lean proteins and grated vegetables, or bagels with fish such as salmon are an easy way to do it.
The combination of a fresh, balanced diet and plenty of exercise is a great way to make sure that our kids grow up healthy and happy and free from issues such as obesity and depression. Activate Sport runs an exciting series of summer sports camps that are perfectly suited to inspiring an active lifestyle – see our website for details of everything from dance to cricket camps, and more great healthy recipe ideas.