Transform that lunch box into something wonderful

Zella had a fantastic day at Titchfield Haven and wonders what other local gems she's overlooked      Picture: Gary Taw

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A collective sigh of relief will be heard around the country in a matter of weeks, as many exhausted parents send their little ones back to school.

With the new school year on its way, many parents will start to think carefully about healthy packed lunches.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is issuing some quick and handy tips to create not only healthy packed lunches, but packed lunches that are full of flavour and variety.

The BDA is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with approximately 7,000 members.

Rachel Cooke, from the British Dietetic Association, says: ‘What children eat at a young age has a massive impact on their eating habits for life, so it is essential we get the younger generation into choosing and enjoying healthy nutritious food.

‘When putting together a packed lunch, it is so easy to go down the usual route of packets of salty savoury snacks crisps, bars of chocolate, fizzy drinks and the same old boring sandwich day after day.

‘Many adults wouldn’t accept eating the same things day in day out, so why should children?’

Follow the BDA’s simple tips for achieving a healthy packed lunch:

n Back to basics – bread, cereals and potatoes...

Try to keep a selection of breads in the freezer for sandwiches.

Using a different type of bread each day can make sandwiches more interesting.

Try multigrain and seed rolls, bagels, baguettes, pitta breads, wraps, the list is endless.

You could also raid the fridge for leftovers – some foods taste just as good cold, such as pizza, or pasta. Cook extra pasta, couscous or rice then mix it with cut-up vegetables, a few nuts, flaked tuna or mackerel.

n Filling the void – meat, fish and alternatives...

Try to include lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or pulses in your lunch box:

Consider these tasty but healthy ideas; tuna with cucumber, green pepper, sweetcorn or tomato; ow fat hummus and cucumber; egg and cress; cottage cheese and dried apricots; cooked chicken or turkey, tomatoes, and lettuce; peanut butter and banana; grated cheese and tomato; oily fish, such as salmon sandwich or mackerel pasta salad.

Remember, if you are using a spread choose a reduced fat one – or do without it completely if you are using a moist filling.

n Vegging out or feeling fruity...?

It’s important to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day. You won’t be stuck for choice when it comes to lunchtime:

Fresh fruit e.g. apple, grapes, banana, kiwi fruit (children have also said they like different fruits every day and not always the traditional choices. Why not surprise your child with a different fruit / veg choice every day of the week?)

Consider the following:

Dried fruits, e.g. raisins, apricots;

Chopped raw vegetables e.g. carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes or a mixed salad;

Tinned fruit in natural juice – pop in a small container or buy small tins with a ring pull.

n Dairy delights...

Try to include some dairy products in their lunch box such as low fat yogurt; low fat fromage frais; small pot of rice pudding or custard; milk or fruit-based milkshakes.

n Tasty treats...

Fancy something sweet? There’s nothing wrong with this. Just try and make healthier choices when you can.

Good options include a currant bun, scone or fruit loaf; plain popcorn; a cereal bar; or even a fun-sized bar of chocolate.

Put in a drink...

Choose from plain water (still or sparkling); milk (skimmed or semi-skimmed) or plain yoghurt combined with fruit e.g. smoothies made with pureed fruit.

To make it easy, buy pure fruit juice in small cartons or pour into a small bottle

Keep cool...

Use a cool bag and pop in an ice-pack or freeze a carton of juice and place in with food to keep cool.

Make sure you keep your lunch boxes in the fridge until morning and check that your child’s lunch isn’t being stored next to a radiator or in the sun during the day.