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The Lunchbox Dilemma

It has come around again so quick, school is back and with it begins the daily dilemma of what do I put in the lunchboxes?


Are you that parent who is running to Kmart at 8pm to soak up the late-night shopping trading they have each night? Join the club!


We are then bombarded daily with Social Media posts on everything that needs to be done with heading back to school… including how to pack the perfect lunchbox for your child! If you are that parent who wants to pack the carrots and your child wants the packet chips then again welcome to my club!


Ok, so I am a dietician so it would be expected that my kids have the dream lunchbox packed with nutritious healthy food, right? Well I am here to let you know that these days my boys are very aware of what is in their lunchbox versus everyone else’s. The feeling that rises up in them around social exclusion weighs out my need for them to have the perfect lunchbox.


In the past I have packed a box full of healthy options only to learn that they were traded, binned or used in a social experiment on their friends. From this I have an important goal which is to build confidence in my kids, school is hard enough! The key to it all is to compromise or let go of my expectations where it is ok to do so.


When I truly think about it, the school lunchbox only provides my boys with 6 hours of food. I still have control over their breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch and supper. The key is to maintain their energy and hydration as well as enjoyment in their day.


In the boy’s lunchboxes I focus on one main area, protein. It is so easy to fill their lunchboxes with carbs – packet of chips, chocolate bar, tiny teddies, muffin bar, juice, etc. My aim is to try for the half and half approach. I accept that my boys like to eat chips. I work with this and add some protein to complement their processed snack desires.


There are plenty of super easy protein lunchbox fillers out there – Up & Go’s, Yoghurt Pouches (Chobani are GOLD) and cheese. Now, having said that I still always struggle in this area, especially with the hot days. I would love to hear from anyone who has found any protein foods that have worked for your family.


To compliment what I have packed I will always add a small low GI Bakers Delight bread roll for them. Yep, I know it’s white bread, but we have to remember how far science has come. I believe this is the best option in the bread world for my boys. They boys like that they are small – their food has to be fast “lunchtime is for playing, why would you sit around and chat, that’s what the classroom is for!” So I am told regularly.


Now for the huge win, if you can add something protein on the bread roll. Roast beef is one of the highest percentage meats in the deli world. Other protein toppings could be cheese, left over chicken meat, cold rissoles or if you’re really lucky, some hard-boiled egg or tuna. But let’s be honest these don’t happen in my world due to previous experiences of other kids commenting on one of my boys eating tinned fish at school. So, I cut my losses, and accept the cheese or roast beef and leg ham options.


Now the question I am sure you want me to answer - What chips go in? Now there are healthier options in the chip world, so if you are able to experiment with your kids give the Parkers Pretzels and Messy Monkey’s a go. But if not, I stick to the Plain Smiths or Salt and Vinegars to try and minimise the addictive’s where possible.


If you are needing more packet foods, I have found that rather than no packet foods, I just check them out. For example, my boys love the Milo Bars, so rather than a quick dismissal I have looked into them and have been surprised by their findings. Yes, their ingredient list isn’t the finest, but as an energy snack before training or as part of their day, these work to create variety. I don’t add them every day, but once or twice a week works for us.


In the weeks I do get to bake my aim never changes. I just create variety in the boy’s lunch box that makes them happy. Yes, the muffins may be choc chip, but I’m happy that they are made with flour, local milk and eggs, essence and sugar.

We put so many expectations on ourselves based on what we see and hear that are to be honest unrealistic! I hope this blog helps to create some reality on it all. Even the dietician struggles with the task! Stay focused on the meals you can ace, and be ok with the comprise when you need to do.


The Milo Bar break down -


Original Milo bars are 4.0 stars; 330kJ (that’s the same energy as 1 piece of fruit); are low in sodium; moderate in carbs (equal to 1 slice of bread) and have 5g sugar in them. They may not be perfect but I am comfortable with that.


Milo Original Bar

Energy / bar 330 kJ / bar

Carbs (sugars) / bar 14.8g (4.6g) / bar

Fat (saturated fats) 1.1g (0.3g) / bar

5.4g (1.5g) / 100g

Fibre 2.1g (10g / 100g)

Sodium 23mg (110mg/100g)

4 out 5 health stars




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