School lunches don’t need to be a source of stress this year. Getting the upper hand comes down to preparation and getting back to basics.

Cairns parents are preparing to send their little ones back to school next week which means the pressure of preparing crisp uniforms and nutritious lunches.

The school lunch box has become stressful. Between lunchbox rules from schools, pressure to keep up with trends and wanting to provide a nutritious lunch that kids will actually eat, it’s no wonder parents are feeling the pressure.

Cairns based, NAPHL Health Hub accredited practising dietitian Alyce Rees says parents should take a simple approach to packing their child’s lunch.

To book an appointment with Alyce call 4722 8750

Ms Rees said the key to taking the stress and chaos out of school mornings is forgetting the fads and getting back to the basics of nutrition – and they can be counted on one hand.

“Just like adults, kids have a few key nutritional needs to fuel their mind and body for the school day,” she said

“By focussing on these, you’ll have all the tools you need to provide a fantastic lunchbox without resorting to packaged snacks, which can be a really expensive option and produce excess food wrappers.

“To fuel them for the day, start with a protein rich source. Children need protein for growth and repair. Good sources for the lunchbox include leftover roast chicken, boiled egg, tuna or legumes like chickpeas and lentils.

“Aim for at least two types of coloured fruit or vegetables. Colours represent different vitamins and minerals. Simple ideas include carrots for beta-creatine, red capsicum for vitamin C, bananas for potassium and blue berries for antioxidants. The bonus is these foods provide fibre which will help feed their good gut bacteria.

“Next is a dairy source. The running, jumping and skipping in the school yard uses calcium to develop strong childhood bones. Great sources of calcium include cheese, yoghurt or a calcium fortified yoghurt alternative.

“Include a wholegrain carbohydrate source to fuel the brain in the classroom and their active play times, such as a grainy bread roll, wrap, crackers or brown rice.

“Last but not least is include some healthy fat. A small amount of fat helps keep kids full and assists the body to absorb vitamins. While nuts are a great source of healthy fat, many schools have a nut free policy. Try avocado, seeds, hummus or drained canned fish in oil.” Ms Rees said a little pre-planning will help you think up lunchbox ideas that your kids will enjoy.

“Make the lunch box contents easy for little kids to eat. Chop food including fruit and vegetables, into small sized pieces. Bento type lunch boxes are great for this. Mix up the lunchbox items to maintain their interest. “Whatever you pack, by using the five-finger guide you’ll know you’re ticking off the key nutritional needs to help them thrive in both the classroom and the playground.”

The five nutritional needs in every school lunchbox:

1. Protein Good sources: roast chicken, eggs, tuna, legumes (chickpeas, lentils).

2. 2+ coloured fruit and vegetables Good sources: Carrot and capsicum sticks, banana, blueberries.

3. Dairy Good sources: cheese, yoghurt, calcium fortified yoghurt alternative.

4. Wholegrain carbohydrates Good sources: grainy bread roll, wrap, crackers, brown rice. 5. Healthy fat Good sources: avocado, seeds, hummus, drained canned fish in oil.

5. Healthy fat Good sources: avocado, seeds, hummus, drained canned fish in oil.

TIP: Don’t forget the fluids. Water is best for the lunchbox. Try freezing a water bottle the night before for a bonus to keep the lunch cool throughout the day.