This is a healthier alternative to fruit-flavoured yoghurt
The school day is a marathon for young minds and their packed lunch can have a significant impact on their academic performance and overall focus.
As parents, we understand the challenge of providing nutritious yet appealing packed lunches that not only satisfy our children’s tastebuds but also nurture their cognitive development.
Fortunately, achieving this balance is not as daunting as it may seem.
Nutritionists at Bulk have shared what foods you should include in your child’s packed lunch that can enhance their learning and overall experience at school.
In this article, we delve into the world of nutritious packed lunches, unveiling 10 foods and ideas that promise to fuel your child’s brainpower, enhance their concentration and set them up for success in the classroom.
Kefir is a cultured and fermented milk that has a similar taste to yoghurt and is naturally high in calcium and gut-supporting probiotics.
The probiotic cultures can help prevent and even treat an upset stomach.
Fruit-flavoured kefir and fruit water kefir are available in many supermarkets.
This is a healthier alternative to fruit-flavoured yoghurt or fromage frais, helping to boost cognitive function.
Spinach is rich in Vitamins A, C and K1, as well as folic acid and iron.
Iron is good for energy as it helps create red blood cells.
An iron deficiency can leave a child feeling tired and without energy, which can affect performance in class.
Instead of putting lettuce in your child’s sandwich, use baby spinach leaves.
This simple replacement is a good way to boost your child’s nutrient intake without them even knowing. Note that baby spinach is more tender and sweeter than mature spinach.
A piece of fruit in a packed lunch is vital and bananas are one of the best ways to boost a child’s focus at school.
Bananas are great for energy as they contain fibre that helps the body absorb the natural sugars present in bananas.
This prevents an energy crash and in turn, can keep children going in lessons.
It is a perfect snack to have at break time.
Avocados are a nutritious fruit containing C, E, K, B3, B5 and B6.
It is an excellent source of CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10).
Studies have shown that CoQ10 is ideal for cognitive function and development, which can ultimately help your child in lessons.
A packed lunch option would be to make guacamole with oven-roasted pitta. This is a healthier alternative to a packet of crisps.
Oven-roasted pitta can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, perfect for prepping in advance.
Tuna is high in protein and very low in fat
Its main benefit is that it is high in long-chain Omega-3 (LC Omega-3).
High levels of LC Omega-3 are found in saltwater fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.
These are vital for brain development and promote eye health.
Studies have also shown that Omega-3 can help manage ADHD, which one in five children worldwide suffers from.
Studies have shown that children with ADHD have lower levels of Omega-3 than those without ADHD.
Tuna in spring water is advised, rather than tuna canned in brine or oil as these are high in salt and fat.
Tuna can be used for a homemade sandwich filler or pasta salad, lasting in the fridge for two to three days.
Wholegrain foods are an excellent source of fibre.
They are also high in manganese, which is essential for calcium absorption and helps with growth and development.
For a child’s packed lunch, use wholegrain bread for their sandwiches instead of white bread or wholegrain pasta in salads.
Surprisingly, popcorn is a wholegrain, making it an easy swap from crisps.
This snack is high in fibre, manganese, zinc and iron.
Protein is very important for children as the amino acids assist with growth and development.
Chickpeas can be blended to make hummus. Children can then dip carrots, peppers and cucumber.
This is great for a packed lunch and can be prepared in advance.
Chickpeas contain eight essential amino acids, which are necessary for vegetarians or vegans.
If your child is a vegetarian, white beans are a good source of protein and iron.
They also promote the feeling of fullness, allowing your child to focus in class as hunger can distract them.
Packed lunch ideas include serving cannellini beans or haricot beans in a cold wholegrain pasta salad.
Citrus fruits, especially grapefruit are high in Vitamins A and C, which help with immunity.
These vitamins are essential during the flu season – which can easily spread in schools – as they can boost your child’s immune system.
Studies have also shown that grapefruit can prevent insulin resistance, which can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
But if grapefruit is too bitter for your child, oranges are a great alternative.
Dried mango is chewy and sweet, giving it a similar texture to sweets.
But dried mango is much healthier as it is high in Vitamin C and dietary fibre, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
Stable blood sugar levels are important for maintaining consistent energy levels in the brain. Fluctuations in blood sugar can negatively impact cognitive function and lead to brain fog.
The natural sugars in dried mango can also provide a quick source of energy, which can be beneficial for mental alertness and concentration, especially if consumed when feeling low in energy.
What are the Benefits of a Packed Lunch?
Foods that promote energy and reduce fatigue are important in a packed lunch, helping to keep a child alert during lessons.
Include foods that are rich in Vitamin B or have a low Glycaemic index in your child’s packed lunch as these are great for energy.
While refined sugars and fried foods are good in moderation, they should be avoided in packed lunches.
This includes packets of crisps, concentrated fruit juices and mini packets of biscuits or cookies.
LC Omega-3 is essential for development, contributing to brain and eye development.
Avoid packing foods made with industrial and processed oils such as canola or corn.
This is because they disrupt brain development and should only be eaten in moderation.
Malnutrition can stunt growth and is the most common reason for growth issues in children.
If your child is consuming mostly processed or pre-packaged food, it is highly likely that they are consuming many additives rather than the correct amount of nutrients they need for growth.
It is commonly thought that only calcium is needed for growth in children but this is a misconception.
Vitamin D and some forms of protein are also vital for growth.
Schools are rife with colds and flu viruses as many children are in close proximity to each other, meaning infection is easily spread.
Frequent colds are common in childhood but packing the right foods in their lunchbox can boost their immune system for later years.
Ensuring they have the correct nutrients is vital, as this can drastically reduce symptoms and duration of colds and boost their immunity.
A daily intake of both Vitamin C and Zinc are great for boosting immunity.
Strawberries or melons are excellent sources of these nutrients and great for packed lunches.
By exploring these 10 packed lunch ideas, it is evident that nourishing children’s bodies and minds can be an enjoyable and creative endeavour.
By incorporating brain-boosting ingredients like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean proteins into their meals, we not only support their cognitive development but also instil lifelong healthy eating habits.
So, as you prepare your child’s next packed lunch, remember that it’s not just about sustenance; it’s an opportunity to fuel their dreams and aspirations.