Telethon Kids Institute-Joondalup Health Campus: What makes a healthy school lunchbox

Dietitian Sarah Whalan, of the Telethon Kids Institute.
Dietitian Sarah Whalan, of the Telethon Kids Institute.

As a new school term is about to start I’m sure many of you are thinking about packing your children’s school lunchboxes, writes Telethon Kids Institute dietitian Sarah Whalan.

You may be finding that packing your child’s lunchbox is getting more difficult and frustrating due to healthy lunchbox policies being introduced in schools across WA.

A healthy lunchbox is important, as it provides the fuel for your child to get through their day of learning and play.

Lunchboxes should contain about one-third of a child’s food for the day. A lunchbox full of high-sugar products can have an impact on a child’s learning capacity inside the classroom.

The perfect school lunchbox has each of the five main food groups: vegetables, fruit, breads and cereals, dairy and proteins.

What does this actually look like? Your healthy lunchbox may be made up of a wholemeal chicken wrap, an apple, carrot and cucumber sticks, a small tub of low-fat yoghurt, and a water bottle.

A frozen water bottle or ice bricks can be used to help keep food cool.

In WA, many primary schools follow the ‘traffic light’ policy, which categorises food and drinks as green (good sources of nutrients, less saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or salt, help avoid an excess intake of energy), amber (some nutritional value, moderate levels of saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or salt and can, in large serves, contribute excess energy), or red (lacking adequate nutritional value, high in saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or salt, can contribute excess energy).

Simple swaps can be made to school lunchboxes to fit traffic light criteria:

– Swap fruit box for plain water

– Swap muesli bars for a piece of fruit

– Swap sweetened, flavoured yoghurt for plain yoghurt with fresh fruit.

The healthy lunchbox website developed by Cancer Council NSW in partnership with OUTRUN Cancer has lots of great information and pictures of healthy lunchboxes.

THE Origins Project, a collaboration led by Telethon Kids Institute and the Joondalup Health Campus, is a long-term study into the health and development of 10,000 children born at the Joondalup Health Campus over the next few years. In this regular series, we feature an Origins researcher explaining the project’s research or health issues that matter to parents and families. This week’s columnist is dietitian Sarah Whalan, of the Telethon Kids Institute.

READ MORE: What medicine can I safely use during pregnancy