Friday, 27 September 2013

What is in your child's lunch kit?

The children are gone back to school, and parents have spent their last penny on uniforms, books, school fees and bags. Parents, have you thought about what you are putting in the lunch and snack bags for them to eat?

Feeding a child between the ages of three and 12 can be a real challenge, not to mention the teenagers who are undergoing peer pressure at school. Some children will accept food in lunch kit from parents but then at school will either swap the item(s) with a friend, sell the item or dispose of it in the garbage. When our child gets home and the bag is checked, we parents feel so elated that the snack was not left in the bag and believe it was consumed by our child.

Children need healthy meals and snacks for:
  1. Physical growth
  2. Development of strong bones and teeth
  3. Building strong immune system to prevent illnesses
  4. Prevent anaemia (weak blood)
  5. Prevent constipation
  6. To prevent or delay the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease
  7. The common nutritional problems in children include:
  8. Overweight and obesity
  9. Anaemia
  10. Dental caries (rotten teeth)
  11. Constipation
  12. Obesity
  13. Childhood obesity may develop due to:
  14. Introduction of food from family pot too early - before six months of age.
  15. Overfeeding from birth
  16. Consuming too much high-fat foods such as sausages, corned beef, ice cream, fried foods, margarine and butter.
  17. Consuming too much foods that are high in sugar such as cookies, biscuits, bag juice/fruit drinks, candies/sweeties and sodas.
  18. Consuming foods that are high in carbohydrates such as chips, crackers, biscuits and breads.
  19. Consuming too little fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts and water
  20. Not enough exercise or physical activity.

  1. Provide fresh, whole fruits and vegetables instead of chips, sweet biscuits/cookies, cupcakes.
  2. Provide water instead of juices, soda, bag juice/ fruit flavoured drinks.
  3. Ensure that breakfast is eaten before children leave for school.
  4. Encourage physical activity.
  5. Anaemia
  6. Iron deficiency anaemia may be as a result of the child:
  7. Not eating enough iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, liver, dried peas and beans, callaloo, pok choi and egg yolk.
  8. Consuming milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt with a meal. The calcium in these foods prevent the absorption of iron in plant foods such as dried peas and beans and callaloo (non-heme iron).
  9. Not consuming vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, lemonade, West Indian cherry juice, tomatoes with meals. Vitamin C helps to pull iron into the blood (absorption).
  10. Recommendations
  11. Serve iron-rich foods along with Vitamin C-rich foods.
  12. Provide iron-fortified cereals.
  13. Dental Caries
  14. Dental caries (rotten teeth) may be as a result of:
  15. Eating sticky, high-sugar foods such as candies/sweeties, biscuits/cookies.
  16. Drinking high-sugar liquids such as soda, bag/box drinks.
  17. Continuous snacking throughout the day.
  18. Not brushing teeth/rinsing mouth after meals or snacks.
  19. Recommendations
  20. Eat more fresh, whole fruits and vegetables, unsweetened beverages and water instead of sugary snacks.
  21. Choose snacks that have a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat such as milk, cheese/peanut butter and crackers, yoghurt. Protein and fat protect the tooth enamel from decaying.
  22. Rinse mouth after eating.
  23. Brush teeth at least two times per day.
  24. Here are some ideas for our children's lunch kits:
  25. Unsweetened crackers with cheese or peanut butter
  26. Fruit (fresh, whole)
  27. Vegetables (carrot sticks, tomato, broccoli with salad dressing or cheese sauce)
  28. Nuts - peanuts, almonds, cashew, pistachios. Children under five should not be given nuts - may cause choking
  29. Popcorn (lightly salted or sweetened)
  30. Dry cereal with dried fruits.
  31. Milk (flavoured or plain)
  32. Dried fruits - raisins, prunes, cranberries
  33. Cupcakes or muffins with no icing, frosting or cream fillings.
  34. Water (plain or flavoured)

Let us protect or improve the health of our children by controlling what is put in the lunch kit and sent to school or church!

Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: