When we are busy often the first thing to fall by the wayside is our diet.
Lunchtimes in particular can be tricky, kids are invariably busy at school and need healthy snacks that are easy to tackle, while workplace lunch options can be high in salt and fat as convenience and speed are often the priority.
Keeping little bellies fuller for longer with an appealing variety of food at school doesn't have to be hard for mums and dads and if you’re packing for them, why not pack for yourself and save both your wallet and your waistline at the same time.
And variety in a lunch box is the key, says accredited practising dietitian Lisa Donaldson.
Ms Donaldson, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said it was important to pack a variety from the five food groups.
"Limit the amount of pre-packaged foods for lunches and opt for a variety of fruits and vegetables," she said.
Limit the amount of pre-packaged foods for lunches and opt for a variety of fruits and vegetables and try for a variety of textures.
"Whether it be crunchy, cooked, raw or stewed - try a variety of textures, particularly when it comes to kids and opt for colourful foods like capsicum, tomatoes, cucumber.
“A cooked carrot may get refused at the dinner table but can make a terrific dipping stick with hummus, or a great sandwich filling when grated."
Ms Donaldson said foods that were rich in protein and healthy fats would keep little bellies fuller for longer.
"Try packing a cold chicken drumstick, some seeds, yoghurt, avocado or some cheese," she said.
And getting the kids involved in putting together their own school lunches could be a way to create interest and excitement around eating.
"Planning ahead, and choosing healthy options that both you and your kids enjoy, can be a great way to promote positive lunchtime choices and establish healthy eating habits in the whole family" Ms Donaldson said.
A healthy lunch generally consists of a main item (e.g. sandwich/ wrap/soup/pasta with veg), a fruit/vegetable snack (apple/in season fruit, veggie sticks, side salad), a second snack (reduced fat yoghurt, wholegrain crackers with cheese) and a drink (water or plain milk).
"Always try and pack a dairy option if you can. In the warmer weather pack an ice brick to keep school lunch box items cool," she said.
Top tips for a healthy lunch
1. Sandwiches: vary bread and fillings. Alternate multi-grain or wholemeal rolls, wraps and bread and store leftovers in the freezer. Cut sandwiches into shapes such as squares or triangles or, for a bit of fun, try a large cookie cutter.
2. Nibble mixes are great to graze on - popcorn, dried fruit, seeds or cubes of low fat cheese and grainy crackers. While nuts are usually not accepted in schools, they provide great protein for a workplace snack.
3. For an easy snack for the kids, cut raison bread or fruit loaf into quarters.
4. Pack crunchy veggie sticks such as carrot, celery and capsicum with hummus and tzatziki.
5.Replace juice for water. While juice appears to be a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks, it contains high amounts of sugar, so always opt for water as a first choice.
6.Eggs make a great high protein snack and can be boiled and placed in the fridge to save time.
7.Rice cakes can be a good alternative to bread and less filling, topped with avocado and tomato is a tasty, nutritious snack.
8.Home cooked is best: if you have the time then home cooked treats like savoury muffins, frittata, and slices can be great fillers for hungry kids and by baking them yourself you know exactly what’s inside them.
If the idea of organising your lunch ahead of a busy family morning is just too much, then there are services that can do all the hard work for you and still ensure you have a healthy balanced lunch.
Fast fuel meals have a variety of locations across Newcastle and the Hunter and deliver healthy, nutritious lunch meals and snacks to workplaces everyday.
Via an easy to use online ordering system Fast Fuel take the hassle out of cash exchange, enabling employers to either buy for employees, or employees to log on and place their own order. Meals are fresh, chef prepared, and macro balanced by dietitian Kirsty Seward.
The system allows the user to select the date for the order to be delivered.
Chad Taylor, founder of Fast Fuel, is passionate about changing attitudes and behaviour toward food.
He believes that eating healthy not only helps you to feel better, but can improve overall quality of life.
The Fast Fuel meal delivery service has been designed to go beyond the notion of healthy lunches and really drills into the opportunity for employers to embrace workplace health and the long term impact it can have on productivity, along with rates of sick leave taken and overall employee engagement.
“By including workplace lunches into salary packages for employees, firms are driving a clear message to their staff that their health and happiness matters,” said Chad Taylor.
Fast Fuel have a great blog with a comprehensive range of articles on all things food and health. visit www.fastfuelmeals.com.au for more information.
Regardless of who in your household is lunching, taking the time to prepare fresh food and consider what you and your family are consuming day to day is well worth thinking about.