01.02.2015 Nutrition

Cool School Lunches

Nutritionist Kylie McCarthy offers fun and fresh school lunch ideas to save your sanity

I'm about to help you think outside that old school lunch box. If you think the words gluten free, raw, paleo, vegetarian and vegan were for those "alternative" city folk, think again! I'm about to show you how to give your kids the fresh, chilled combinations of energising colour and crunch they deserve in their lunch boxes (yes chilled). Simple easy to do - and make it quick lunch box combinations that won't leave your kids with autoimmune diseases, intestinal bloating, hyperactivity, foggy brain and or learning difficulties - lunch box combos for real families!

So the summer break is almost over and the roundabout of schooling life is about to get back into full swing. But this year you are going to be organised right? There will be routine and order! Nothing will be compromised - oh okay, nothing but perhaps just your own health when, like every good parent, you shuttle the kids to and from their after school or weekend sports rather than make that gym class you have vague distant memories of.

Okay, so as time passes and your tight ship of February starts to leak you may want a little help in time management. Considering you are wholeheartedly into this thing called parenting, you want to be able to provide those little cherubs with the best, most nutritionally balanced, school lunches available. It comes down to time management and preparation - the essence of what is, I believe, the demise of society. Perhaps that's a tad dramatic but really, let's face it, if we could afford to have Mum or Dad at home to prepare the family meals, lunches included, from wholefoods, then there would certainly be (again in my opinion) a little more love and calm amongst the masses.

But let's not get too idealistic. The kids are here, and so too is your mortgage and that dream holiday is not going to pay for itself - so off to work you go. Hence, Mum, Dad, you need a hand.

Below is a list of lunch box combinations that are all gluten and predominantly dairy-free, except for a little cheese. I try not to add too much meat as there are plenty of reasons to eat more meat-free meals: they are nearly always cheaper, lower in calories, better for the environment and it's easy enough to get protein without eating animals. There are lots of meat-free alternatives and combinations and they don't have to be packaged vegan substitutes!

Yes, meat and eggs are complete proteins, while beans and nuts aren't. But humans don't need every essential amino acid in every bite of food in every meal they eat. Grains, which your nutritionist will try to steer you clear of, nuts, seeds and legumes are all protein sources. And getting just three of those four - say, nuts, seeds and legumes - will be enough to make up a complete amino acid profile, just like eating a meat. So while you might opt for a first class protein on some days, say turkey, fish or chicken, you don't have to eat an animal or animal products to get all your dietary requirements. Quinoa, hemp seed, buckwheat and chia are great protein choices.

To enable these lunch box suggestions keep well, stay cold and remain crisp, fresh and desirable to the kids at school, you may have to invest in a pretty snazzy lunch box for them - one that keeps their food cold. They are honestly worth the investment, an investment in your kids' health. "Fridge to go" have great cold pack lunch boxes that keep food cold and dry for eight hours. I'd check out "Lunchbots" also - yes bots -, both fantastic "health boxes" I recommend. Lunchbots even have little separate condiments containers for nut spreads and dressings that will make any vegetable fabulous, all stainless steel with different segments for your exciting and colourful wholefood recess and lunch surprises! Check out their websites.

And it might be worth the investment - if the kids are still really young - in getting yourself some shape cutters for your raw vegetables and cheeses. You can get smiley face shapes, flowers and much more that will make eating raw vegetables, like carrots, cucumber and beetroot, fun! And what about coloured rubber cupcake holders - great to hold dried fruits and seeds. It's all about colour, fun and the element of surprise. How wonderful to think that with a little imagination that extra moment in the kitchen creating something different every now and then, spiralising raw zucchini say, can bring a smile to your baby's face. And even have them think of you when they see that zucchini hair on an apple face in the middle of a tough day in the schoolyard!

Some basic rules for a balanced lunchbox

Always get omega 3 fats and protein into each lunchbox. Omega 3 foods are few and far between, so do your best.

Grains and anything made from grains, like rice cakes, bread, pretzels and crackers, are really not necessary. Often these products are just easy and cheap options that come at a cost to the long-term health of your child. If you have not yet heard of the devastating effects gluten has on the gastro intestinal system and autoimmune system of the human body, I'd suggest two great reads from holistic medical Dr and wellness guru Dr Sandra Cabot titled Gluten-is it making you sick or fat? and Healthy Bowel Healthy Body Both available from Dr Cabot's Australian websitewww.cabothealth.com.au

Enjoy these fun and fresh school lunchbox ideas!

Kylie McCarthy

Kylie McCarthy is a nutritionist with www.cabothealth.com.au