We got the lowdown from Sharon Natoli, dietitian and director of Food & Nutrition Australia.GET SOME GRAIN
Wholegrains are the best bet to give you long-lasting energy for your school day. Sharon says, “Choose a bread made with wholemeal flour, with wholegrains in it (check the ingredient list).” This will provide fibre and plenty of B vitamins, which are vital for your body’s energy stores. Translation: the more grains you can see in your lunch, the more energy for you!
Try: Multigrain sandwiches or wraps made with flat Lebanese bread.PROTEIN POWER
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you embark on a body-builder diet! But protein is totes important for your daily nutrition. “Including foods that are high in protein in your lunch box will help satisfy your hunger throughout the afternoon, which in turn will help you concentrate,” says Sharon.
Try: Tuna, salmon, boiled eggs, lean beef, chicken or turkey. Vegetarian? Fill up on legumes like four-bean mix or chickpeas.
According to Sharon, you should aim for two serves of fruit a day. What’s one serve? It’s basically a piece of fruit you can hold in your hand (an apple, peach or orange, for example) or a cup of chopped fruit (sliced mango or berries). Alternatively, try small handfuls of dried fruit to mix things up. “Different types of fruit have different levels of vitamins and minerals, so aim for a variety in your lunch box. Making a fruit salad is also a great way to get variety into your lunch box.”
Try: Bananas, oranges, two kiwifruits or nectarines, or a cup of cherries.
Keeping your body hydrated is one of the best things you can do for it. “The best drinks are water or a low-fat plain or flavoured milk for additional protein and calcium,” says Sharon.
Try: A frozen water bottle – you’ll get ice-cold water all day long while it defrosts!SNACK TIME
Go for unprocessed snacks (that aren’t chock-full of sugar) to give you the energy boost you need to make it through your afternoon maths class.
Try: Sharon recommends eating plain muesli bars made from oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits, fruit bread, wholegrain crackers with cheese, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, or vegetable sticks with a hummus or tzatziki dip.
Healthy fats? Yep, that’s a thing. Include sources of healthy fats, like those found in avocado or oily fish (salmon is a great example) in your lunch box, too. “These foods provide you with your main source of vitamin E, which is needed for healthy skin and cells,” says Sharon. Who knew that salmon and avocado bagel could give you a beauty kick?
Try: Avocado, nuts and hummus.WANT A TREAT?
Who doesn’t love to relax with a sweet treat every now and then? It gives a school day, like, 10 bonus happy points! Try spoiling yourself with a small amount of dark chocolate; it has antioxidants that are good for your health and also stimulates the production of feel-good endorphins that make us love eating chocolate so much!
Even the healthiest of eaters can be tempted by a trip to the canteen. To make your meal that bit healthier, it’s time to name and shame the best and worst canteen treats.
Salads with tuna/chicken/lean meat, rice or pasta-based salads, fresh sandwiches, wholegrain wraps or bread rolls, toasted sandwiches, vegetable-based soups, chicken/beef/tofu/vegetable stir-frys or tomato-based pasta dishes.
Sorry guys, but Sharon says it’s best to avoid pies, sausage rolls, hot chips, donuts, lollies and cakes. Of course, you can eat these foods occasionally – just not every week.
Words - Sarah Sheridan
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