A packed lunch… that packs a nutritious punch!

So, the kids are back at school (insert a not-so-subtle cheer and air punch here), and in addition to the usual duties – is the planning of packed lunches. A low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) lifestyle can benefit the whole family; if you’re for looking for ways to transform your little ones’ lunch boxes (or your own for that matter), look no further!

First off, let’s examine what the atypical lunch might consist of, according to government guidelines. Sandwiches are usually the staple, since bread contains complex carbohydrates, which we are told our children must have in order to give them energy, and support healthy growth. Pasta could also be on the list of contenders.

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The eatwell plate, based on current government-backed advice.

Low-fat yogurt, fruit, and fruit juice might accompany the sandwich as seemingly innocent additions; the latter seen as a contribution to the five-a-day. When it comes to snacks, raisins are okay, aren’t they? What about rice cakes? After all, they’re low in fat – and we’re led to believe that we could increase our children’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other such issues… by feeding them fat.

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A typical ‘low-fat’ lunch, based on carbs for ‘energy’.

 

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The ‘staple’ sandwich with a low-fat yogurt, fruit juice… and more fresh fruit.

This type of lunch can stack up the carb content significantly. Collectively, you’re looking at nearly 170g (on average) of carbs in your child’s midday meal alone (plus snacks/a drink). This is equivalent to 34 teaspoons of sugar! Such a quantity can lead to a sharp rise in blood glucose levels, followed by a subsequent ‘dip’.

At first, the little cherubs (swap for whichever word you feel is appropriate) will be high as a kite, running around the playground with a burst of over-wired enthusiasm. However, fast-forward an hour or so later, and low blood glucose levels are likely to impact their concentration levels and attention span, whilst increasing lethargy. So much for ‘energy’.

yogurt

This lot totals at around 170g of carbs.

A lunch that has a more neutral effect on blood glucose will contain some form of protein – the nutrient required for growth and repair. Healthy fats are important, too, since these will not cause extreme fluctuations in blood glucose that (usually) result from carbohydrate digestion. Fats provide a source of energy that is much more sustainable and conductive to a child’s academic performance.

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This type of lunch can cut carbs by as much as 150g!

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Include healthy, natural fats to improve satiety levels.

Some low sugar fruit (e.g. berries) is fine in moderation, as are full fat dairy products, such as cheese and natural yoghurt. With these guidelines in place, you’re looking at a carb count of 20-30g. Much better.

Snack options are also demonstrated, though with fewer carbs, the need for grazing is apt to diminish. Drinks should be ideally be limited to plain water, ‘jazzed up’ with lemon/ lime wedges, strawberry and orange slices, or mint leaves (feel free to get creative). Even diet drinks should be avoided where possible. Think about it: who wants to drink something that can also be used to clean the toilet?

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Lowering the carbs can help to avoid fluctuations in blood glucose levels and thus, attention span.

Pictured above are examples of low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) lunch options; these are preceded by high-carb, low-fat, (HCLF) examples.

I hope this article has delivered some food for thought, and will assist you in making better dietary choices for your children, that are aligned with their health and well-being. I’m sorry that I can’t supply any help with the unenviable task of ironing the school uniforms (you’re on your own with that).

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About the author

Zoe Martin

Zoe is a nutritionist aged 25 years (and 64 months). Her hair colour changes like the weather. This makes her nervous every time she travels abroad, convinced that Passport Control eye her suspiciously.

She’s short; sometimes sweet. Laughs often (and LOUDLY).

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