Healthy school lunch box ideas that won’t break the bank

Healthy lunch boxes are part of the building blocks for children’s growth and instilling healthy eating habits. Experts share some tips to help make the process easier and affordable for parents.

The first tip is to consider your choice of protein.

“Protein is crucial for active children and teens on the go, given its importance to muscle health, bone strength and hormone production. When times are tough, a simple and highly effective money-saver for parents is simply to swap expensive protein sources such as beef for an affordable meat such as pork,” said Eskort technical manager and food scientist Melindi Wyma.

Other advice from Wyma included creating a weekly meal plan and swopping expensive snacks such as chips and chocolate for easily packable fruits and vegetables such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes, berries or sticks of cheese.

“Not only are these snacks highly affordable but usually more filling for your children as well, offering more bang for your buck in addition to their nutritional benefits.”

Dr Iqbal Karbanee, a paediatrician and CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, said that when it comes to fruit juices in a lunch box, water is the best choice and sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum.

“This is because fruit juice contains fructose that is a type of sugar. In excessive quantities this can result in loose stools as well as cramping of the tummy. Fruit juice should also be limited due to the effect on the teeth in young children.” said Karbanee.

“It is recommended to always dilute fruit juice with water at least 50/50 to reduce this effect specifically. Fruit juices also have quite intense sweet tastes generally. Children love them for this reason. Diluting the juice makes this taste less intense and is beneficial in this way. As a rough guide, children should not get more than 250ml of juice per day.”

He adds that lunch boxes are the cornerstone of healthy food habits from a young age.

“In order to provide enough energy to concentrate and participate properly at school, the lunch box should contain snacks that are wholesome. Dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt, vegetable sticks like carrots and cucumber are great. Two slices of bread are usually enough.”