Lunches provide about one-third of our daily nutritional intake, so it pays to put consideration into what you’re packing.
Eating a balanced lunchtime meal of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats will provide your body with the macronutrients it needs to stay alert and energised. Good food habits begin from an early age, so providing a balanced and appealing lunch for kids is vital in setting a strong foundation for healthy eating throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
Nutritional information is guided by Healthy Eating recommendations from the Department of Health and the HSE.
Fruit and vegetables:
Centre your lunch around plenty of vegetables, salads and fruits and enjoy a variety of colours rich in vitamins and minerals.
- 1 medium sized fruit e.g. apple, orange, pear, banana
- 1 bowl of salad – leafy greens, lettuce, tomato, cucumber
- 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or stewed fruit
- 1 bowl of homemade vegetable soup
- Raw carrot, celery, cucumber or pepper
Milk, cheese and yoghurt:
These foods are the best source of calcium, which is essential for bone development. Three to five servings a day are recommended (five for growing children).
- 1 glass of milk (200ml)
- 1 carton of yoghurt (125g)
- 25g of hard/soft cheese (matchbox piece
Cereals, bread and potatoes are high in carbohydrates, providing energy for the day. Include at least one serving at every mealtime. Look for wholegrain or brown options whenever possible as these are high in fibre and slow-releasing energy. They will also keep you fuller for longer.
- 2 slices of wholemeal bread
- 1 wholemeal wrap or pitta pocket
- 2 medium potatoes or 4 salad potatoes
- 1 small piece of homemade flapjack
- 1 cup of cooked pasta or rice
- 3 tablespoons of oaty granola
Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are good sources of protein which is essential for growth and development. Two servings a day are recommended. Pulses (peas, beans, lentils) also provide protein.
- 50-75g of cooked lean meat (ham, chicken or beef)
- 100g cooked fish e.g mackerel/salmon fillet or tinned tuna
- 2 eggs
- 40g unsalted nuts or seeds
- 3/4 cup beans, peas, lentils
Foods to limit:
Sugary, fatty and salty foods should only make up a very small part of your diet. There are no recommended servings for these foods and drinks. They should only be consumed once or twice a week.
- Prevent lunchtime boredom by varying the offerings — instead of sandwiches in sliced bread, try wraps, bagels, pitta bread or wholegrain rolls.
- Keep kids interested in fresh produce by slicing them into fun shapes using a biscuit cutter.
- Bear lunches in mind when making dinner by preparing extra ingredients; leftover potatoes, meat or salad make perfect lunches, while warm soup or stew packed in a food flask is a welcome option on cold days.
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