Professional dietitian Ruth Harvey shares her 5 top tips for nutritious packed lunches.

It’s back to school time and that means getting organised to fill lunchboxes with foods you hope your child will eat and will give them the energy they need for their busy day. This can be a challenge – I know – but using these ideas your children will be eating balanced, nutritious lunches in no time:

1. Get your kids involved – Asking your child what they would like in their lunchbox will increase the chances of them eating it. They can help you make a list and even help you at the supermarket. Older children can start helping prepare the night before by gathering up all the non-perishable items. Try preparing in advance by boiling eggs, chopping veg, stocking up on yoghurts, fruit and sandwich fillings.

2. Mix it up – Sandwiches are quick and easy, but if your child becomes bored try to vary what is essentially the same thing by alternating pitta, wraps, and sandwich thins. Opt for wholegrain varieties to boost their fibre intake. Frittata or pasta salad are good options too – try adding tuna, chicken, beans and pulses.

3. Choose nutritious snacks – Snacks play an important part in contributing to a child’s energy needs, but most children consume too much sugar and many schools have a healthy lunchbox policy that means no chocolate, no crisps and no sweets. Options include cheese and crackers, savoury muffins, vegetable sticks and dip, olives, homemade bliss balls or try making your own popcorn. Instead of yoghurts with added sugar, try natural yoghurt with fruit puree or fresh fruit.

4. Make lunches look appealing – There’s not much time for this in the morning, so try buying lunchboxes with little compartments so that you can make the food more enticing by including small portions of a selection of foods which will increase the appeal. For younger children, you can add some fun by including a colourful napkin or even a little message to brighten their day.

5. Don’t go too large – Lunch is only one part of their daily intake and a serving should generally be the size of their own palm. Try to include one serving of carbohydrate, one serving of protein, two servings of fruit/vegetables and a serving of calcium if they don’t have dairy or dairy-free alternatives at breakfast.

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