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Fuel your kids for school

With children about to head back to school for 2022, Central Coast Local Health
District is encouraging parents and caregivers to fuel their kids for days filled with
learning and play.

Lesley Marshall, public health nutritionist, Central Coast Local Health’s District Nutrition
Services, says packing healthy foods for our kids is one of the best ways to support them
through school.

“This is a time when their bodies are growing and developing so nutritional needs can
be high. It also helps them to learn healthy eating habits that they will hopefully
continue into their adult life,” said Ms Marshall.

We all know one of the biggest challenges with kids’ lunches can be making sure it
gets eaten, which is why Ms Marshall recommends involving your children when
packing lunchboxes.

“Giving children a choice from a selection of healthy options allows them to have some
autonomy over what they pack in their lunchbox. Involving children in age-appropriate food
preparation is another way to encourage healthy eating and independence,” Ms Marshall

“This helps ensure the healthy foods packed in the lunchbox will be eaten and do not end up
in the bin.”

In the warmer months, freezing things like yoghurt and fruit pieces can help ensure they stay
cool until it’s time to eat them. Using ice bricks and insulated lunch bags is also a good way
to keep things cool.

“You can freeze the yoghurt and it will be ready to eat by recess or lunch. Frozen fruit
like grapes or watermelon pieces will also help keep the lunchbox cool and are great
to eat on a warm day,” said Ms Marshall.

Planning ahead and preparing some things on weekends or the night before can help
ensure a nutritious lunch is packed eve on with busy mornings.

“Cut up vegetable sticks and make your own snack packs from fresh ingredients that
can be bought in bulk, make lunches in advance that can be frozen, like cheese and
vegemite sandwiches or lean meat in a roll,” Ms Marshall said.

“Keep healthy pantry staples that can easily be put in the lunchbox when you are
short on time, like long life milk poppers and fruit in natural juice.”

When it comes to packing drinks, Nina Kingon, dietician and health promotion officer at
Central Coast Local Health District’s Health Promotion Service, says water is the way to go,
while plain milk is another good option.

“Water is the best choice as it is readily available, great for hydration, contains no sugar and
when fluoridated, can help strengthen teeth,” Ms Kingon said.

“Milk provides protein and calcium, important nutrients for growing children, just remember to
keep it cold. Fruit juices, cordials and other sweetened drinks are not recommended as
everyday options due to their sugar content and relatively low nutritional value.”

Ms Kingon said adapting to new routines and making healthy changes can take time, but
support is available.

“The beginning of the school year has many demands for families and school staff, perhaps
now more than ever. Central Coast Local Health District Health Promotion is offering a new
program, ‘SWAP IT’, for primary schools this year that supports schools and families to pack
a healthy lunchbox,” Ms Kingon said.

What to pack to fuel your kids for school:

  • Fresh fruit or canned fruit in natural juice
  • Crunchy vegetables – cucumber, carrot sticks, capsicum pieces, snow peas, cherry
  • A wholegrain food such as bread, a roll, pita or flat bread, fruit bread or crackers
  • Some lean meat (chicken, roast beef, turkey) or other protein food such as tuna,
    salmon, hardboiled egg or hummus.
  • A dairy food such as a cheese stick or cheese slice, yoghurt or milk.
  • A bottle of water

For further information and lunchbox inspiration visit:

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