Swap the shapes for rice crackers, potato chips for popcorn … parents can improve their children’s diets with these healthier lunch box options
But nine out of ten of them contain what is called “discretionary food”Such as cakes, crisps, muesli bars and juices. These foods are not necessary for a healthy diet and are often high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and low in fiber. 40% of the energy in an average lunch box comes from these discretionary foods.
Busy parents need to find substitutes for these optional foods, which are not only healthy, but also easy, cheap and tasty. Our research shows that parents can make healthier exchanges without costing them more.
What children should eat
In general, children should have a variety of foods the five main food groups: vegetables and legumes; fruit; grain foods (mostly whole grains and those high in fiber); lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds; milk, yogurt and cheese (or substitutes).
Depending on their age and sex, children should consume between 4,500-7,000 kilojoules per day. But it’s also important or they get that energy from. This is advised children limit their intake of saturated fat, salt and added sugar.
Read more: How Much Food Should My Child Eat? And how can I get them to eat healthier?
A healthy recess would mean, for example, that children eat a serving of fruits or vegetables, some yogurt and some rice crackers. At lunch, the children could eat a simple sandwich, a wrap or a bun, or leftover basic food group ingredients such as whole grain pasta loaded with vegetables.
How to replace junk food with healthy foods
Parents told us that they want to convenient, inexpensive food to take away that their kids want to eat. So we developed a healthy lunch box program called EXCHANGE IT. In this program, we come up with simple ideas for replacing unhealthy foods kids might like with healthier foods that are comparable in cost, taste, texture, and preparation time.
Read more: Healthy eating is cheaper than junk food, but good eating is still too expensive for some
For example, you can exchange
Shapes for rice crackers. This means 159 kJ less, 77% less saturated fat and 39% less sodium
popcorn chips. That’s 176 kJ less, 57% less saturated fat, 56% less sodium
pike cake means 464 kJ less and 63% less sugar.
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do is try to make sure your kids stick to drinking water.
Our research found EXCHANGE IT helped parents and students reduce energy from discretionary foods by 600 kJ per week. Research suggests a small reduction in 600kJ per week is enough to have a significant impact on the obesity levels of the population.
It can be deployed in schools
Parents are sometimes blamed for unhealthy lunch boxes.
But a barrage of unhealthy foods is presented to parents and children, often disguised as healthy choices. Parents and children see up ten junk food ads per hour. And more than half of parents say their child’s “bullying power” influences what they put in their lunchbox.
Read more: Surrender to the power of plagues at the supermarket checkout? You’re not alone
Parents tell us they wanted easily accessible information when they were in the supermarket. We therefore asked parents to register for SWAP IT using their school’s usual form. Communication application. About two-thirds primary schools used such apps.
We invited parents to exchange ideas each week by sending push notifications to their phones. We found 84% of parents liked that messages were sent directly to their phones.
Studies show four out of five elementary school principals agree that the role of the school is to help parents prepare healthy lunch boxes. We discovered that SWAP IT could be deployed in schools via their communication applications at a cost of less than 1,800 USD by school.
Investing in promoting healthy eating is profitablebecause fewer people end up in the hospital and productivity is improved.