What better way for parents to kick start the school year than by providing healthy, simple and nutritious lunches that are not only tasty but also healthy and inexpensive.

Filling a healthy lunchbox is a daily dilemma for many parents around the country and with lunch providing energy for a large part of the day it is important that choices include the right type of fuel.

“It takes some thought but it is quite easy to replace high saturated fat, high sugar foods,” says Bronwen Anderson, spokesperson for 5+ A Day. “Small changes like using avocado instead of butter on sandwiches or popping in a handful of baby carrots, or a simple homemade pizza with a pita bread base loaded with vegetables such as tomato, onion and even a bit of fruit like pineapple chunks on top will provide the energy needed for active kids without adding unwanted fat and sugar calories.”

5+ A Day is on a mission to see children’s lunchboxes filled with five servings of fruit or vegetables every day.

Bronwen suggests replacing muesli bars or chocolate biscuits and cakes with fresh fruit, low fat yogurt or unsalted nuts. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, like kiwifruit, feijoa, or melon.

Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers, and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods and they can be spread with low-fat soft cheese or eaten with reduced-fat cheddar and marmite.

Starchy foods are a good source of energy, and should make up a third of the lunchbox. But don’t let things get boring. Instead of sandwiches give kids bagels, pita bread, wraps and baguettes. Use brown, wholemeal or seeded bread, not white bread

Preparing part of the lunches the night before can take the pressure off in the morning as well as encouraging children to gradually take over the responsibility for preparing their own lunches.

“A lunchbox of healthy options is better for children but it is also more economical,” says Bronwen whose team purchased two lunches, one consisting of mainly packaged foods and the second comprising of healthier options that contribute towards the 5+ serves of fruit and vegetables a day that are recommended for health and well-being. The team found that putting together a healthier lunch box was significantly less expensive.

A lunchbox which includes a packet of chips, a muesli bar, a packaged drink, a plum and chocolate biscuits costs approximately $3.46. This compares to a healthy lunchbox filled with a cucumber, carrot and cheese sandwich, a celery stick filled with peanut butter, apricot, banana, sliced apple and water which costs approximately $2.82.

“It may take a while for your children to get used to a healthier lunchbox,” says Bronwen “But, it will be worth it for their health and at the same time – it will be much easier on your pocket.”

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