The 2024 school year has kicked off and parents find themselves, once again, facing the daily challenge of packing nutritious and appetizing lunch boxes for their kids.
Balancing the demands of time, picky eating habits, nutritional needs and cost considerations can be quite the juggling act for busy parents.
What goes into the lunch box holds tremendous significance, influencing the energy levels and concentration abilities of our children throughout the school day—both mentally and physically.
This year, Juicy Delicious and Rediscover Dairy have joined forces to provide inspiration and expert advice from a dietitian, aiming to simplify the task of mastering school lunch boxes.
A crucial element of school lunch boxes is the incorporation of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and, right now, it is stone fruit season, which is brimming with peaches, nectarines and plums available throughout the entire first term.
These firm, juicy yellow cling peaches, succulent plums, and sweet nectarines make excellent lunch box additions - they travel well as whole fruits, provide a refreshing boost on warm school days, and are packed with fibre and immune-boosting vitamins C and A, all while being adored by children just like any sweet indulgence.
Moreover, South African-grown stone fruit pairs seamlessly with dairy - offering the ideal, nutrient-dense drink on the go, such as a fresh peach milkshake or nectarine yogurt smoothie.
According to Maretha Vermaak, the registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy, when it comes to nutritional balance, parents need to ensure that school lunch box foods are contributing to their child’s needs for protein, energy, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
“This is where dairy shines. Milk, cheese, maas, and yoghurt offer a unique nutritional spectrum including high-quality protein, energy and calcium.
“Dairy is also a vital source of vitamins such as A, B2, and B12, as well as potassium and zinc. So, you have an exceptional nutritional profile, as well as affordability and versatility, making it easy to include dairy in the school lunch box to ensure your child is getting the recommended 2 to 3 servings of dairy every day.”
To enhance their school lunch box game, parents can opt for child-friendly compartmentalised lunch boxes, like the newly launched ADDIS Munch On The Go Bento Box, proudly manufactured in South Africa.
This ideally sized lunch box, equipped with an easy opening, and kid-friendly clip, includes a leak-free POD for yogurt, dip, or sauce, as well as a removable tray for carrot sticks, wholewheat crackers or slices of nectarines.
With neatly defined sections, picky eaters can navigate their way around their lunch box without feeling overwhelmed and find something they like in every nook.
Here are 6 tips to master lunch box prep:
Include lunch box prep in your weekly meal planning and shopping. Create a weekly list to focus on buying a variety of healthy, fresh lunch box foods.
If you limit biscuits, sweets and crisps stored in your grocery cupboards then there’s less chance they will end up in the lunch box on a busy morning.
Involve your kids
Consider your child's food preferences and include your kids in the lunch box preparation process. Make it a fun and interactive experience.
You need to aim to include at least 2 to 3 servings of dairy in your child's daily diet. Luckily there are many ways to include milk, cheese, yoghurt and maas in the school lunch box. You can freeze a small yoghurt or fruit juice to keep the lunch box cold.
Always include fruits and vegetables
Each day prioritise fresh fruits and vegetables based on what is seasonally available which helps to meet daily energy, fibre, vitamin and mineral needs.
Avoid unhealthy foods
Steer clear of fried, sugary, and high-salt foods to promote overall health and cultivate healthy eating choices from an early age.
Choose healthy beverages
Include low-calorie, healthy, nutrient-rich beverages like milk, or water instead of fizzy drinks and sugary cordials. You will never go wrong with water.
By incorporating these tips and keeping in mind the delightful combination of dairy and stone fruits, parents can ensure that their children start the year with lunch boxes that are nutritious and delicious, setting the stage for a successful school year, said Vermaak.