Community Health News

Healthy lunchboxes on a budget

Michele du Plessis

Back at school means lunchboxes and healthy eating. It is a known fact that 30% of South African children don’t have packed lunches. The main reason for this is that most families don’t have enough food to do this. With other reasons included, about half of children between the ages of 10 and 12-year-olds do not take a packed lunch to school.

Even though some of the children take tuck shop money with them, many parents can’t afford this. Some schools have feeding schemes that provide a healthy lunch for the children. But what if there is no feeding scheme at your child’s school? What if your budget is non-existent or nearly depleted? How do you manage to pack a healthy but cheap lunch for your child?

Lunch is an important part of any child’s school day as nutrition helps with learning and development and to have a great school year, your children need to stay healthy. Good health is all about striking the right balance between healthy eating, regular physical activities and getting enough rest.

Children need protein, starch, fruit and vegetables, dairy and lots of water, especially in summer.

  • It’s cheap and easy to repurpose leftovers and create lunch box favourites. For example, chicken, beef or pork leftovers can be used as a tasty filling for sandwiches or wraps that you can prepare yourself.
  • Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. Brown bread is much healthier and cheaper than white bread and leftover pasta can be turned into a pasta salad for the lunchbox.
  • Don’t use plastic bags, tin foil or wax paper to pack school lunches as these are wasteful and expensive. Invest in plastic containers that are divided into different compartments for the different types of food. You’ll find these at bargain prices at plastic wholesalers.
  • Don’t buy the snack-sized prepacked crackers, crisps or biscuits – rather buy in bulk and pack as much as you need.
  • Don’t buy veggies that have already been diced. Prepacked and processed products are always more expensive. It takes a little more effort to cut them the night before, but you can always chop these up a week in advance and have them ready for the lunch box the night before.
  • Periodically clear out what’s left in the fridge and cut everything into bite-sized chunks that kids will love.
  • A good substitute for animal products is legumes. Foods made from soya have a high nutritional value. Soya mince can be used for a filling on a sandwich or snackwich. A large tub of yoghurt is less expensive than smaller containers and you can use a small plastic container for the lunchbox.
  • Fill a 500ml bottle with water and freeze it. Instil a love of water in your kids from a young age – there isn’t any alternative quite as good as the one Mother Nature provides.

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