Food & Nutrition
Good nutrition is an important part of our daily program. We request that lollies, sweet biscuits, soft drinks, candy bars and gum are not sent with your child to the Centre.
Please ensure your child’s lunch, morning and afternoon tea is placed in respective containers in their refrigerator.
It would be appreciated if you could bring along your child’s drink bottle for regular water drinking throughout the day.
Birthdays are a special time for children. To help celebrate your child’s birthday (or any other special occasion) you are welcome to bring along a cake. A simple sponge or fruitcake is best.
On those occasions when parents prefer to provide their child's lunch, the following foods are suggested:
A piece of fruit (fresh or dried), salad, sandwiches, cheese, yogurt, boiled eggs, cold meat, crisp bread or crackers with their favorite spread. The best type of drink to provide is fruit juice. Cordial and soft drinks are not recommended as they often contain a large amount of sugar and preservatives. Generally what is not eaten will be sent home so you know what is being eaten. Please remember to clearly label all lunch boxes and juice containers with your child’s name for easy identification.
Lunch Box Ideas
Healthy lunches and snacks are important for active children. It is important to offer healthy lunch box choices. Tips include fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables and a combination of protein, dairy and carbohydrate foods. Children who help choose and prepare their own lunch are more likely to eat it.
Healthy lunches and snacks are important for active children. It is important to offer healthy lunch box choices. Tips include fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables and a combination of protein, dairy and carbohydrate foods.
Eating healthy food helps children concentrate and learn. However, healthy eating changes are not always easy to make. Try to set a good example with your own lunches. Encourage children to help choose and prepare their own lunch. They might like to make a list of the foods they enjoy. Praise your child when they choose healthy foods for their lunch box.
Foods to put in a lunch box
- Fresh fruit
- Crunchy vegetables
- A meat or protein food such as slices of lean meat, hardboiled egg, peanut butter or nut paste*
- Dairy food such as a cheese stick or slice, grated cheese, milk or yoghurt
- Starchy food such as bread, a roll, pita or flat bread, fruit bread or crackers
Food suggestions for lunchboxes
There are lots of food choices available for lunch boxes. However, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which foods are healthy choices. Suggestions include:
- Fruit – best choices include fresh or tinned fruit. Dried fruit is sticky and high in sugar, so have it occasionally. Best left out of the lunch box are dried fruit bars and ‘straps’, which are very high in sugar, low in fibre and stick to children’s teeth causing tooth decay.
- Vegetables – try vegetable sticks with dip or a small container with mixed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, capsicum and cucumber. Chips and packets of crisps are best left for parties and special occasions.
- Milk, yoghurt and custard – include a small drink of milk (freeze overnight) wrapped in a cloth in the lunch box. Fruit yoghurts should be kept cool in an insulated lunch box. Best left out of the lunch box are ‘dairy desserts’ and flavoured milks, which are high in sugar.
- Dips, cheese and biscuits – pre-packaged or your own homemade versions of cheese and crackers are fine. Children enjoy mini packaged cheeses. Avoid sweet dips such as chocolate spreads. ‘Oven-baked’ savoury biscuits are just as high in salt and fat as chips and are best avoided.
- Different breads add interest – include a variety of bread, especially if children begin to lose interest in sandwiches. Try bread rolls, pita bread, flat bread, bagels, fruit loaf or buns, foccacias, scones, pikelets, muffins, crumpets, crispbreads, rice cakes or corn thins.
- Vary the fillings – fillings can include vegemite or other yeast extract, peanut butter, cheese (try different types), tuna, egg, sliced cold meats, baked beans, grated carrot and lettuce, chopped roast meat with pickles or chutney, and avocado. Dips like caviar (taramosalata), eggplant, chickpea (hommus), cucumber, yoghurt (tzatziki) or spinach also make good spreads. Avoid chocolate spreads, jams and honey, and fatty meats like salami and strasbourg.
- Muffins and cakes – try making your own muffins and cakes as a great way to include more fruit and vegetables. Examples include sultana, carrot, zucchini, banana or pumpkin. Donuts and creamy cakes are best offered at birthdays and special occasions instead of in lunch boxes.
- Muesli and ‘breakfast’ bars – almost all ‘bars’ are too high in sugar to include regularly, but cereal bars may be better for teeth than chewy sticky muesli bars. Try to avoid muesli bars and chocolate bars in lunch boxes. These are expensive and usually stuck together with fats and sugars.
Practical issues for busy families
Foods should be simple and easy to prepare, ready to eat and appetising after several hours storage in the lunch box. Foods such as sandwiches can be prepared the night before or on the weekend, frozen, then taken for each day’s lunch box. Suitable foods to freeze include:
- Cooked meat
- Peanut butter
- Baked beans
- Mashed eggs
- Yeast or vegetable spreads such as Vegemite.
Food safety in lunchboxes
In most cases, food is stored in lunch boxes for several hours, so the lunch box needs to stay cool. Food safety suggestions include:
- Choose an insulated lunch box or one with a freezer pack, or include a wrapped frozen water bottle to keep the lunch box cool.
- Follow hygienic food preparation methods. This is especially important when food will be stored in the lunch box for many hours before eating.
- Prepare lunches the night before and store in the fridge or freezer.
- Perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs and sliced meats should be kept cool and eaten within about four hours of preparation. Don’t pack these foods if just cooked. First cool in the refrigerator overnight.
Best drinks for lunchboxes
Water and milk are the best drinks for children. They can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool. Sweet drinks such as fruit juices, juice drinks, cordials, sports drinks, flavoured mineral waters, soft drinks and fizzy drinks are high in sugar and not necessary. These drinks can increase the risk of tooth decay, are filling and may take the place of healthier foods.
Find out why they’re not eating their lunch
Many schoolchildren bring their lunch home with them at the end of the day, which can be frustrating. There may be a variety of reasons why your child does not eat all the food in their lunch box. The following suggestions may be helpful:
- The lunch box style – your child may have an issue with their lunch container. They might prefer a brown paper bag or want the latest fashion in lunch boxes to be like the other kids. It may be difficult for them to open.
- Boredom – try to pack a different lunch every day. For younger children, cut the sandwiches in different ways to add interest: for example triangles, squares or strips. You could even use one slice of white and one slice of brown to make a ‘zebra’ sandwich.
- Too dry – if they say the filling is too dry, try leaving a sandwich uncut. Some fillings like dips or peanut butter may stay fresher this way. If your child's appetite seems small, offer smaller servings. For example, half a sandwich might be more appropriate than a whole one.
- Fiddly and sticky – make sure the foods are manageable and easy to eat. Some children are put off by fiddly packaging or don’t like getting sticky hands. Fruit can be made easier to eat. For example, remove orange peel or cut a kiwifruit in half and include a spoon in the lunch box.
- Make other meals count – if your child hardly eats anything from their lunch box despite your best efforts, try to at least ensure they have a nutritious breakfast and dinner. Trust that your child will eat when hungry.