Pack Money Saving Power Lunches for Your Kids

Every South African parent faces the daily dilemma of trying to balance the household budget, while at the same time concentrating on packing a healthy and nutritious school lunchbox. This challenge begins at pre-school, and follows your child along the path to higher education, and even beyond.

Working out the food budget

These formative years are particularly important when it comes to following a decent diet. That is because children face incredible pressure both in and out of the classroom. It follows then that these early eating habits will set trends for your children, one of them being that decent school lunch boxes can save a lot of money over time. Perhaps even more important is the saving in health costs that healthy eating will help keep in check.

Assuming your local school has no healthy feeding scheme in place, you have three options open to you for quelling your scholar's hunger bug:

      1. You prepare nothing for them and simply give them money to buy what they want for themselves. Inevitably, this is akin to telling your child to gorge on the likes of sugary cool drinks, greasy burgers and slap chips. Would you really want to condemn your loved ones to a lifetime of health issues forever? Imagine the enormous cost of expensive medical interventions.

      2. Your kids insist on preparing their own "cool" lunchboxes. This is very dangerous for the young and uninitiated, because they will simply fill up with all the wrong 'goodies'. You may as well tell them to go and play in a sweet factory!

      3. You pack their lunch for them, following a varied but tasty menu that is high in nutrients and easy to prepare. Apart from this article, plenty of other authoritative websites exist, and offer easy-to-follow advice on healthy and wholesome diets with budgets in mind.

This is a no brainer; there really is just one option to choose from the above selection.

Major Health Warning

That's right, South Africans are facing a morbid future if present trends continue, or even increase thanks to poor eating habits. A new word has already entered the medical dictionary: "Diabesity". It describes the potentially lethal combination of diabetes and obesity, and both are affecting even pre-teen children right across the nation. Think of the life of misery this can inflict on those so young and dependent on you simply to guide them in the right direction.

What can you do about it? Fortunately, no rocket science needed here; it is all about planning and preparing healthy food. Here, we will look at a few tasty options of what you can conjure up for your kids, knowing that they will appreciate and enjoy what you have prepared for them, without spending a fortune.

The Sensible Sandwich

If you can afford rye bread, great. If not, opt for wholegrain or at very least, brown bread. When it comes to fillings, avoid using carbohydrates and use a low fat spread instead. Lean cooked meat, chicken or turkey breast are good, and so is fish, which can be fresh cooked or canned. The latter is particularly high in essential Omega 3, 6 oils, a proven barrier to heart disease in later life. Low fat cheeses are acceptable from time to time, but try to use white unprocessed cheeses such as mozzarella or white cheddar. Peanut butter makes a tasty and nutritious variation, as long as nobody suffers from nut allergies.

Add a selection of fresh-washed vegetables such as raw celery stalks, chopped carrots or diced tomatoes; maybe some lettuce leaves too – pop them all in a zip-locking plastic bag. The intake of fresh fruit is also highly desirable, and these days your local supermarket always has something affordable on offer in the fresh produce section. South Africa is a land blessed with an abundance of quality fruits and vegetables, thanks to our fine climate.

It is quite OK to include the occasional sweet surprise, particularly in the colder winter months. However, confine the treat to safe and beneficial offerings such as healthy muesli bars. If you have to go the chocolate route, keep it to a couple of blocks of the dark variety; avoid milk chocolate and toffee-filled "snacks" such as Mars Bars - not only bad for the diet, but terrible for developing teeth as well.

Variations on the Theme

Low-fat and preferably unsweetened yogurts are good to use on a regular basis, you'll find affordable pack sizes at your local supermarket. Notwithstanding allergies, nuts and raisins, preferably unsalted, make a far better health snack than fried chips and salted snacks. It is also quite in order to include some fresh baked cookies, as long as they contain plenty of sesame and sunflower seeds. Homemade soup heated and served in a flask, helps keep out the winter chill. Keep to healthy ingredients, pea and ham for example; definitely a budget stretcher.

Freshness and presentation are vitally important when making up the school lunch box. Make it appealing by adding touches of garnish, and ask yourself if you would be willing to eat each of the meals that you prepare for your kids. It has to look as good as it is going to taste, otherwise it will likely end up in the bin.

The school meals you provide for your children should turn into one of the bright moments when mealtime comes around. It will become a lifestyle and should never be a power struggle. Remember, you are competing against some clever advertising on TV and elsewhere, and your children are the target audience. Friends at school are going to try their level best to persuade your darling sons and daughters to go for all the wrong foods. It's the "cool" thing to do!

A last few words of advice; avoid refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and refined flour. These cause blood sugar levels to rise sharply, which provides a momentary burst of energy followed by a rapid drop off in energy levels. Further, sugar intake leads to mood swings, and in the classroom, this can seriously hinder performance levels.

The challenge begins in your kitchen at home, and lasts as long as your kids remain in school. Take the initiative from day one, and don't give in to all the distractions. It's your way of making South Africa a happier and healthier environment in which to live and you are also doing your bit to avoid expensive medical costs over time.