“Parents and carers will pack more than 2500 lunchboxes over the course of a child’s school years,” she said.
“Choosing items from each of the five food groups (vegetables and legumes, fruit, grain, lean meats and diary) will give children all the nutrition they need to play and to learn.”
Mrs Gowrea said simple, healthy school lunch options include chicken and salad wrapped in wholegrain pita bread, a tub of dried apple, apricots and sultanas, plain popcorn and a tub of yoghurt and water.
“All lunchboxes should contain at least one serve of fruit and one serve of vegetables,” she said.
“Breads and cereals should be wholegrain as these help students get the slow release of energy they need throughout the day.”
Parents are advised to avoid packaged and processed foods such as biscuits, chips, lollies, chocolate, muesli bars and soft drinks, which are high in fat, added sugar and salt and low in fibre content.
While these foods may provide a short-lived burst of energy, they offer little nutrients and energy to last a full day of school and also tend to be more expensive.
Mrs Gowrea said breakfast was still considered the most important meal of the day.
Scientific evidence has linked breakfast consumption with improved numeracy and literacy skills.
“Children who don’t get enough to eat at the start of the day are more likely to make poor food choices for the rest of the day and in the long term,” she said.
“Children who skip breakfast may lack fibre and sufficient vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins.”
If time is an issue, try cereal bites or mini wheats to eat on the way to school, but look for cereals that are high in fibre and aim for more than five grams of fibre per 100 gram serve.
After school, parents should resist the temptation to hand out small portions of highly processed foods as these will keep children satisfied for a limited time only.
Replace the biscuits and crisps with a piece of fruit, smoothie, fruit toast, yoghurt or cheese, dried fruit, nuts and seeds or cheese/cold meat and wholegrain crackers.