If you are the parent of a kid, you sure are preparing to pack lunch. With schools re-opening and the start of a new term, what is on every mother’s mind is a healthy home-cooked lunch winning over the challenges of an array of fast food choices and cascading peer pressure to consume junk food.
Breakfast influences mind, mood and cognitive performance. Kids often struggle with intake of wholesome breakfast either due to early school timings or the sheer lack of time. Inadequate or no breakfast spurs lethargy and zaps concentration. A nourishing lunch is thus imperative to compensate and ensure growth and development.
Lunch should be nutritious with adequate calories, protein and satiety value to keep full until evening, yet light to keep active and alert during the afternoon slump. Ti ought to be a prime meal consisting one third of your daily nutrient requirement. Combinations with whole grains, pulses, dairy, fruits and vegetables pack nutritional punch to sustain the physiological demand. Cheese, curd, soybeans, bean sprouts, peanuts, assorted nuts, eggs, chicken and fish offer high quality proteins necessary for muscle growth. Do take care to incorporate the child’s choices with a dash of creativity and imagination to encourage consumption of lunch from home.
It is superfluous to mention that watery, messy, mushy, sticky or dry lunch in an unclean carrier defeats the purpose of food safety. As suggested by the Food Safety Information Council, emphasis on ‘choose, clean and chili’. Choose a lunch box that is easy to clean, spill proof and is compact. Do air the box dry to maintain hygiene and prevent the growth of moulds and fungi. The lunch box should be adequately cool in temperature. Thermos box also helps to maintain hot temperatures, which will delay microbial growth. Meat, fish, poultry or dairy need special attention to prevent incidences of food poisoning. It is advisable to steam sprouts to kill any harmful microbes.
Reiterate on wholesome fresh foods with variety to forsake the temptation of processed goodies often synonymous with excess sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
Healthy Lunch Choices:
• Stuffed paranthas – vegetable (radish, methi, onions, gobi, carrots, palak)
• Rolls with vegetables, egg, tuna or minced chicken (optional – low fat or fat free cheese)
• Dalia upma/kheer/biryani
• Vermicelli upma/pulav/biryani
• Pasta, noodlesm, spaghetti, fusilli, futtuccini, macaroni
• Whole wheat or multigrain bread sandwichs with raw veggies/stuffed vegetable preparations/non-veg/cheddar cheese/peanut butter
• Pizza and burger with veggies (you may choose whole wheat options)
• Pita bread and hummus
• Tortilla wraps
• Dosas – Rava/ragi/instant dosa with peanut chutney
• Idlis, vegetable idlis (grated carrots and peas), kanchipuram idlis, rave idli
• Dairy – fruit yoghurt, lassi, buttermilk, smoothie
• Fried rice – eggs/veggies/chicken
• Pulav, biryani, lemon rice, puliyogare, pongal, bisi bele bath, tomato rice
• Curd rice
• Rajma chawal (red rice), white rice with curries/sambar/majjige hulil kalu huli – legumes/ lentils
• Brown rice chickpea vegetable pulav
• Kadi chawal
Healthy Breakfast Options:
• Breakfast cereals – Muesli, oats, dalia, wheat flakes with nuts, chopped dried fruits like walnuts, prunes, apricots, raisins and fruits, drizzled with honey
• Nutria (soya) nuggets/chunks/granules
• Paneer or tofu
• Hard boiled eggs/omelettes with veggies/scrambled eggs with veggies/poached eggs
• Besan preparations – Vegetable pakodas, kadi, steamed pakodis
• Milk shakes, smoothies, flavored milk/hot or cold chocolate
• Fresh sprouts with fruits and veggies (steamed sprouts with pomegranate, grapes, grated carrot, diced cucumber, silvers of radish)
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Beverages: Fruit juices (100 percent, no added sugar), tender coconut water (tetra packs).
Salads: Vegetable sticks (carrot, radish and cucumber sticks) or other veggies like tomato, lettuce, cabbage, colored peppers, broccoli, sautéed mushrooms.
Fruits: Whole fruits like apple, orange, pear or cut fruits like water melon/musk melon/papaya.
Treats: Dark chocolate (70 percent or more cocoa), assorted dry fruits like figs, raisins, apricots etc.
Accompaniments: Baked chips, khakhras, roasted papad and roasted channa add the crunch and crispiness.