Packing healthy, energy-boosting meals and snacks for your kids that are quick and simple to put together can seem difficult and time-consuming, especially when you’re pushed for time. We spoke to qualified nutritionist Victoria Tipper to get some expert advice on how to easily create nutritious breakfasts and lunches for busy school days.
Start the day the right way
When your kids are in for a morning of lessons, you need to pick a breakfast that produces energy and promotes brain power. “High-protein breakfasts keep blood sugar levels regulated so kids have buckets of energy,” says Tipper.
“A recent study found that eggs are better than cereals for sustaining energy until lunch. Poached or boiled eggs are ideal, or whip up a quick omelette with vegetables.”
Tipper advises avoiding processed cereals, which can be packed full of sugar, but porridge made from rolled oats or quinoa, with a few berries, is the answer. Smoothies are another great way to get nutritious ingredients into kids’ breakfasts. Try berries, banana and flax seeds.
Low-fat and flavoured yoghurts should be avoided, as they can contain hidden sugar. Check the ingredients, and put any that list sugar as one of the first three ingredients firmly back on the shelf. Insulin and cortisol are triggered by artificial sweeteners which causes fat deposits around the abdomen.
“Make sure you avoid high sugar foods that will cause blood sugars to spike and then crash, leaving your child tired and perhaps a little moody at school,” says Tipper. She also warns that snack bars marketed as “healthy” can sometimes contain a lot of sugar and trans-fats. Raw veggies, and dips such as hummus or salsa, can be made in bulk, or make your own popcorn at home with coconut oil. Dried or fresh fruit is also ideal, while baked kale and zucchini chips can make a great alternative to fried potato chips.
The main event
Try to incorporate whole grains and protein, such as chicken, into lunches. “Protein should be part of every meal,” says Tipper. “It helps rebuild every cell of the body, including hair and nails. Whole grains, such as quinoa, are high in fibre and low in sugar to help sustain your child’s energy throughout the day.”
All-purpose wheat products, on the other hand, such as white bread, result in high levels of glycophosphates in the diet which are highly inflammatory to the bowel lining.”
When it comes to hydration, water is really the best thing you can pack for your child. Juices can have as much sugar as a soda, despite it being natural sugar. It’s best to keep fizzy drinks and other treats like chocolate for special occasions.
Healthy meals are more doable than you think. Take a look at Tipper’s easy lunchbox above for a meal that will keep your kids full of energy for lessons throughout the day.