A healthy lunchbox guide

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Those lunchboxes can save you money - and they're a lot healthier than buying junk food on the run. Here's how to put them together.

Many things need to be considered when planning lunches, including personal likes and dislikes, seasonal availability, weather conditions, whether the food be kept at the right temperature, ease of eating and time away from home. These and other factors will influence what and how much you put into the box, bag or packet.

  • Sandwiches made with whole-wheat, low-GI or seed-loaf type bread are higher in nutrients than their refined counterparts. Topping ideas include:
    • shaved chicken, beef or ham
    • tuna, pilchard or egg mayonnaise
    • cheese with cucumber, tomato (fresh or sun-dried), jam, marmite or Bovril
    • fish paste
    • hummus
    • low-fat flavoured cottage cheese*
    • peanut butter
  • Toppings to avoid include salami, polony, liver spread, bacon and egg
  • Commercially available muffins tend to be high in fat and added sugar, so a homemade banana or bran muffin could be a healthy lunch box alternative to a sandwich
  • Home-made hamburger with lettuce, tomato and gherkin
  • Hamburger bun with marinated, stir-fried skinless chicken breast strips with lettuce and tomato
  • Low-fat savoury crackers such as Provita with low-fat Melrose* or chicken drumstick
  • Home-made popcorn
  • Cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, mini corn, mushrooms

During the hot summer months it is especially important to ensure you keep your body hydrated. Ideas to ensure your fluid needs are met include:

  • Sipping from a water bottle all day – remember that some flavoured bottled water is much the same as decoloured cooldrink!
  • Iced tea
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Flavoured dairy* or soya milk
  • Drinking yoghurt*
  • Yoghurt tub*
  • Sports drinks should only be drunk by individuals who take part in exercise for more than an hour per day

To help you reach your 5-a-day fruit and vegetable intake, slip whole, easy-to-eat fruits, dried fruit, fruit bars or chews into your lunch box. For the more adventurous, fruit skewers are always a winner.

Weekly treats could include:

  • Biscuits
  • Savoury biscuits
  • Bite-size chocolates
  • Mini milk tarts
  • Carrot cake
  • Banana loaf
  • Hot cross buns
  • Home-made oats biscuits or crunchies
  • Nuts or nuts and raisins
  • Energy bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Liquorice
  • Jelly babies or beans
  • Marshmallows
  • Suckers
  • Ostrich or game biltong (beef biltong is higher in fat)

Foods for occasional treats, i.e. once or twice a quarter:

  • Pies and pastries
  • Sausage rolls
  • Samoosas
  • Chip rolls
  • Chips
  • Vetkoek
  • Commercial Rotis
  • Doughnuts
  • Brownies
  • Coconut ice
  • Fudge
  • Toffees
  • Viennas
  • Gatsbys
  • Droëwors

*Important to note that children under five should not consume fat-free or low-fat dairy products as their bodies require a higher fat intake than that of adults.

For more information on healthy eating, kindly contact the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa’s Heart Mark Diet Line on 0860 22 32 22 for advice from registered dieticians.

(Heart and Stroke Foundation SA)

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