School Lunchboxes Made Easy! Top Tips to Start the Year Well

Good nutrition is not only essential for your child’s growth and development but is also important in keeping them adequately fuelled for the long school day. Whether starting school for the first time, progressing from primary to secondary school or returning to a familiar routine; this transition is a busy time for kids, teens and parents alike. Back to school marks a fresh beginning and structure for the next 9-10 months of your family’s year, so take this time as an opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyle routines and habits from the get-go. Lunchbox Checklist – what to include: Typically, a packed school lunch should contain all of the major food groups. Examples: 1 portion of starchy carbohydrate (e.g. wholegrain bread, pittas or wraps, brown rice/pasta) 1 portion of protein food (e.g. chicken, fish, egg, pulses) 1 portion of dairy [e.g. yogurt (125g), cheese (25g) or milk (200mls)] 1(+) portion of vegetables (e.g. carrot sticks, peppers, sweetcorn, lettuce, onion) 1(+) portion of fruit (e.g. apple, orange, banana, pear, kiwi) A drink of water and/or milk   Paula Mee, Independent Dietitian, Assistant Lecturer and Author advises “It’s worth investing in a lunchbox that has multiple layers or compartments. They are widely available, tend to be very durable and really encourage you to prepare a varied lunch that is both delicious and appealing to the eye – you could include a sandwich in the bottom layer and fill the top layer with a selection of delicious eats such as cheese cubes, grapes, mandarin pieces, raspberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, pepper slices, carrot batons or yogurt/smoothie tube”. Below are some tasty lunchbox ideas to try: Sandwich fillers: Tuna and sweetcorn mix; Chicken, mixed salad and tomato relish; Turkey, grated cheddar cheese and tomato; Salmon, cream cheese and spinach leaves. Sandwich alternatives: Pesto pasta salad with chicken and peppers; Mild spiced couscous with roasted vegetables and chickpeas; Brown rice salad with mixed diced vegetables and sliced hardboiled egg; Homemade soup and brown bread. Snacks: Carrot and red pepper sticks with hummus; Cubed cheddar cheese with grapes; Fruit salad with yogurt and seeds; Fresh fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt. You can also view our ‘Back to School’ lunchbox video here for more ideas. Did you know? The Department of Health’s Healthy Eating Guidelines recommend 3 servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Between the ages of 9-18 years, 5 servings per day are recommended due to the increased calcium requirements at this life stage. Examples of one serving include a 200ml glass of milk, 125g pot of yogurt and 25g of hard cheese e.g. cheddar cheese. Caroline Gunn, Nutritionist with the National Dairy Council says “Milk is one of the best dietary sources of calcium, a nutrient that is well recognised for its important role in normal bone growth and development. Childhood and the adolescent years are particularly important for forming healthy bones.” “In addition, people often forget that there is more to milk and dairy than calcium, with one glass of milk also providing us with protein, potassium, phosphorus, iodine, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 – each playing a variety of important roles for our health. For example, iodine contributes to normal cognitive function; vitamin B2 assists with the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; while vitamin B12 plays a role in immune function”, explains Caroline. The National Dairy Council is now taking registrations for the School Milk Scheme for the 2019/2020 school year. Only children registered in participating schools can avail of this fantastic service. If you would like your child’s school to avail of School Milk please contact the National Dairy Council on 01 290 2451 or email Find out more Find us on Facebook/NDCIreland | Follow us on Twitter @NDC_ie for news and events updates. The School Milk Scheme The School Milk Scheme was established by the EU in 1977. One of the main objectives was to contribute to the nutritional profile of children’s diets. The EU subsidy ensured that milk was available to children at a discounted price and was therefore cost competitive to other substitute products. The scheme has been operating in Ireland since 1982. The School Milk Scheme is currently managed by The National Dairy Council and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the financial support of the European Union. It provides a daily fresh portion of milk to school-going children at an affordable price in Primary, Secondary and Montessori schools. School Milk is delivered to 550 schools and over 60,000 pupils each school day in Ireland. Participating schools are supplied with free fridges to ensure that milk is chilled.

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