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2020-01-20 11:14

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The rushed task of preparing a lunch box that is not only healthy, but tasty enough to enjoy during the day, is again a reality for parents and working adults.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to filling your, or your children’s skhaftin (lunch box).

Philile Mdletshe is a Johannesburg-based lifestyle blogger, medical doctor and mother to four girls, who decided to share her love for cooking with other mothers through her social media and online blog.

Mdletshe said that cooking is a form of therapy for her.

“It is not easy being a career woman, a wife and a kick-ass mom who prepares delicious meals for her family,” said Mdletshe.

Mdletshe said that good nutrition is her priority when it comes to her children’s lunch boxes. She said because of her profession and lifestyle, she had to introduce her daughters to healthy and colourful food.

“I try to make it exciting for them to ensure that they actually eat what I pack. Now that they are getting older, I include them in the process and I ask about their preferences when it comes to their lunch,” said Mdletshe

packed lunch

Out of bread rolls? Grab a croissant and fill it with some ham and cheese for a quick kiddies’ lunch.  

The doctor told Weekend Witness that the staple foods she recommends for growing children include good starches, proteins and fruits.

“Whole-wheat bread is great for sandwiches, as well as whole-wheat wraps. Baked potatoes are also good.

“For protein intake, I incorporate eggs, chicken, meat balls and fish in their diet. Then when it comes to snacks, I prefer packing them fruit.

“Your child is bound to like at least five types of fruit. There are plenty to choose from,” said Mdletshe

Mdletshe said that instead of juice, she packs milk in her daughters’ lunches because it is great for growing children.

“I always pack them a bottle of water too,” said Mdletshe.

She said the most important thing to her as a parent when preparing food for her girls is packing food that will give them lasting energy.

“My kids are at an age where they are very active.

“They are involved in sports and they need to concentrate at school. Foods that are high in protein and natural fat are important.

“Omega three is important for brain function which is why I also recommend nuts as a snack.

“They are full of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients that help promote blood flow, delivering more oxygen to the brain,” said Mdletshe.


Weekend Witness spoke to Lungisile Mbatha, a Pietermaritzburg-based woman who once worked as a chef in the Durban University of Technology, Indumiso Campus in Imbali, as well as the Cedara College of Agriculture in Howick. She said most of the students she worked with enjoyed lunches that were accompanied by hot chips. She said that this would normally be a quarter chicken, fish or a pie served with hot chips and a salad. “The meals we prepared were always freshly made, and students would also get a fruit and juice with their lunch. The food was fresh, healthy and loved by our students,” said Mbatha.

packed lunch

Lungisile Mbatha has enjoyed working as a chef in several tertiary cafeterias.

She said that some students preferred to have their lunches as a take-away, which meant that the kitchen staff would have to prepare their meals in the morning, and make sure they would last until lunchtime. This meant they had to be a little more creative. “When preparing a take-away sandwich, we wouldn’t include tomatoes because they tend to make bread soggy. We wanted all students to receive the best possible meal.”

How adults prepare their lunch

Weekend Witness spoke to Maritzburgers who take care of their own daily lunches while being mindful of their expenses.

Ayanda Mkhize said that she normally packs the previous night’s leftovers for lunch.

“If I was too lazy to cook the night before, then I buy myself lunch. I use Uber Eats to have food delivered to the office,” said Mkhize.

The idea of having leftovers for lunch was supported by Amara Bhatt, who said that because of how crazy her mornings are, she finds it much easier to dish up her lunch from the previous evening’s meal, as she dishes out dinner for herself and her brother.

“It saves me a lot of time because I just have to grab my lunch container from the fridge and rush out,” she laughed.

 packed lunch

Chicken, baby spinach and strawberry salad, with sprout sprinkles. Plain yogurt and pineapple for a snack, with some water.

Lindokuhle Mbuli said he spends roughly R700 a month on his lunch. Mbuli said he never has time to prepare a lunch box in the mornings, so he buys something at the fast-food shops near where he works. He said there are many factory workers in the area who want something quick and easy to eat before heading back to work.

“I normally buy hot chips, a russian, bread and cool drink, which adds up to R35. This means that I spend R175 weekly on my lunch. I never realised I was spending so much money,” he laughed in shock.

Lindiwe Gama said she doesn’t spend more than R10 on her lunch per day. She said she doesn’t enjoy a sandwich that has spent too long uneaten, so she gets something from her office canteen.

“The canteen sells freshly made food that is prepared in front of you, and it is very affordable. I love the egg sandwich which is only R8,40,” said Gama. Gama enjoys her sandwich with a complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate that her company provides.

Khanyi Mabaso, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, said she now does meal preparation three days ahead to accommodate her new lifestyle.

“My meals usually include protein and vegetables, lots of fruit, and peanuts as a snack. I also carry an extra large bottle of water,” said Mabaso.

Melanie Silver told Weekend Witness that she tries to reduce her carbohydrate intake and substitute it with vegetables. She said that she drinks a lot of water during the day and eats fresh fruit.

“I add my fruit to plain yogurt, and I nibble on biltong throughout the day,” said Silver.

Environmental impact of packaged lunches

Former CEO of the Wildlands Conservation Trust Andrew Venter said that he recommends using reusable food containers with compartments when packing lunch, as opposed to using wrapping products such as plastic or foil.

“If you purchase the containers with partitions, there is no need to use Cling Wrap,” said Venter.

packed lunch

Andrew Venter, former CEO of the Wildlands Conservation Trust. 

He said that wax paper is not recyclable but will break down eventually if it end up in a natural environment whereas plastic and foil will not.

“Aluminum is well recycled in SA, but the problem with foil is that it is very thin. When we try to recycle it, it just vaporises and that is harmful to the environment.”

When asked about his lunch box, Venter said: “It normally consists of peanuts and raisins, cheese and fresh fruits.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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