With all the planning that goes into preparing children for a successful year at school, the humble lunch box is often a key ingredient that goes under the radar.
Shannon Wright, Schools Nutrition Coordinator at Cancer Council Western Australia, says planning the contents of children's lunch boxes is just as important as the contents of their school bag.
"A lunch box containing healthy, nutritious food and water means not only will your kids grow up fit and strong, they'll also benefit from being more alert and focused in class," Ms Wright said.
Government research shows Western Australian kids aren't eating enough fruit and veg, with three out of five not eating enough vegetables and two out of five not eating enough fruit.
"Providing a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is one of the most important ways parents and carers can ensure their children remain healthy. Fruit, vegetables and water are must haves for lunchboxes."
While Ms Wright agreed parents and carers are generally time poor and look for quick options to prepare in the morning, she suggests planning ahead and preparing lunches the night before.
"By getting everything cut up and put in sandwich bags or containers the night before, you don't have to run around frantically in the morning.
"It's even a good habit to prepare lunches while making dinner as you already have utensils out and you haven't retired for the evening."
She also recommends involving children in the decision and preparation process.
"Encouraging children to make good choices from a young age will create healthy habits for a healthy life."
Here are ten handy lunchbox tips that will help you provide your kids with a healthy lunchbox in 2016:
- Vegie sticks such as carrots, celery, capsicum and cucumber last well in the lunch box and can be paired with cream cheese or healthy dips like hummus or tzatziki for a delicious healthy snack.
- Freeze grapes, or cut fruit into unusual shapes to entice fussy eaters. Fruit kebabs are also a yummy colourful snack.
- Rub a little lemon or orange juice onto cut apples or bananas to stop them going brown, or look for the new varieties at the shops that stay white when cut.
- Substitute white bread for wholemeal, grainy, rye bread or wraps or put some leftover dinner like pasta salad or home-made vegie rice in a container.
- Cook and freeze a batch of healthy muffins or savoury pikelets on the weekend and add one to your lunchbox each day.
- Freeze scoops of yoghurt into a small container and freeze overnight for an icy treat. Add berries if you have some available.
- Avoid packaged snack food which is often high in sugar, salt and fat. Instead, make trail mix consisting of air popped popcorn, dried fruit and seeds or rice crackers with cheese or tuna.
- Make sure to pack a full water bottle and that children know to fill it up throughout the day. Staying hydrated, particularly during hotter months like February and March is really important and can prevent headaches and irritability.
- There's nothing worse than a warm sandwich so try and keep the lunchbox cool. A frozen water bottle or milk box will help and if school bags are kept outside, you could put the lunchbox in an insulated bag with an extra ice brick.
- Be consistent - get your kids used to eating healthy foods by putting it in their lunch box every day.
For more healthy nutrition information for your children, head to crunchandsip.com.au.