Lunch boxes

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Feel that sunshine on your skin!

 

Spring has arrived. The sun is in the sky and the trees are in bloom. Sit back and enjoy our Spring Nutrition Newsletter, with lots of great nutrition news, recipes and family eating tips for the season.

 

We break down getting kids into the kitchen, the new American Academy of Paediatrics statement on additives and child health and what it means for food storage, vegan diets for children, and a host of nutrition tips and recipes.

 

Take a look inside!

 

Cheers,

Click here!

x Bloom 🌿


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When my children wanted to cook cornflake cookies recently, I realised that I had an opportunity to improve on an age old favourite and turn into something that could go into their lunch boxes.
My lunchbox baking criteria is that it must include a wholemeal or wholegrain base for fibre, B vitamins and longer lasting energy. I also like to include fruit, veggies and/or seeds.
With most Australian schools being nut free, I frequently try to include seeds in my cooking as they are an equivalent source of important nutrients such mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fibre, protein and minerals like phosphorus and magnesium amongst others. Chia seeds are slightly unique in that they are a very good plant source of Omega 3 (ALA) fatty acids. Most seeds contain Omega 6 (although linseed is also a notable source of Omega 3). Our bodies can’t make ALA and so we must source it from our diets. Nuts and seeds along with olive oil and leafy green vegetables are all good sources. Chia seeds are also particularly high in fibre, so including them in your families diet can really help your child hit their daily fibre requirement.

They may be expensive but a small amount goes a long way! I hope you have fun making these cookies with your kids!

Cornflake Chia Cookies

Ingredients

125g butter softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
pinch of salt
2 cups of crushed cornflakes

Method:

Heat Oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Using an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together and light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until mixed. Fold in the flour, baking powder, chia seeds, crushed cornflakes and salt.
Shape into small balls and place about 5cm apart on a baking tray. Cook for around 15 mins or until lightly golden.
Store in an airtight container in your freezer for 3 months.

Note: this recipe was inspired by a classic cornflake recipe found on taste.com

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As we head into another term (How is it Term 3 already???), my mind always turns toward the dreaded lunch boxes, and I start to think about what new items I could add to keep things interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like coming up with creative new ways to fill up my children‘s lunch boxes and meet their nutritional needs, but the monotony of making them day after day takes it’s toll.

I imagine most Mums (and Dads) probably feel this way, so in the interest of making everyone’s lives a little easier, I thought I’d share my latest finds and ideas to help keep your child’s lunchbox interesting! I’ve also created a cracker of a new recipe for you, my choc orange lunchbox truffles! And let me tell you, not only will your children love these, but they are a great accompaniment to your mid morning coffee!

Do your kids like sushi? Then why not try adding some Nori sheets to their lunchbox? They are a great source of iodine, vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium. Here’s a tip: your local sushi shop might sell offcuts. I buy a huge packet from my local shop for just $1! Of course you can buy the large sheets from your local supermarket too.

 

With most Australian schools now “Nut Free” zones, our children miss out on this great source of essential fatty acids. Seeds offer the same nutrition and fats as nuts, so looking for ways to include them in your child’s lunchbox is a must in my mind. They’re also a great source of protein,  fibre, magnesium and phosphorus. If you’re short on time try the Coles range of “buddies”. They have several different varieties, each featuring dried fruit and seeds. Of course you can make your own too. I like to start with a base of puffed corn then add shredded coconut, cranberries, yoghurt covered sultanas, pepitas and banana chips. 

 

Wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks with dip make a great lunch or snack. Coles mini avocado or hommus dips are a great option for those mornings where you just need  to grab and go. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These school holidays I’ve spent some time in the kitchen creating some new lunchbox recipes I hope you’re children are going to enjoy as much as mine. Below is my recipe for Choc Orange Lunchbox truffles. Enjoy! 

 

Choc Orange Lunch Box Truffles

13 Meedjool dates (pitted)

1 cup rolled oats

3 teaspoons coco powder

1 cup dried cranberries

2 Tablespoons of chia seeds

zest of 1 orange

3 Tablespoons of fresh orange juice

Add all ingredients to your food processor and blitz unit it comes together. Shape into small balls, then roll in coco powder. If coco powder is too bitter for your children you may prefer to roll in desiccated coconut instead. Store in an air tight container in the fridge. 

This post is not sponsored.


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Sugar. There’s been an explosion of interest over the past few years, but how many people actually know why we should be limiting it, and how much exactly should we be limiting our children to?

When I ask most parents why they believe we should avoid sugar I usually get answers such as “It’s bad for you” or “It causes Type 2 diabetes”, neither of which are really correct. With so much hype and hysteria over sugar, the real evidence and concern with it’s intake has been lost, such that people now think it’s mere consumption is going to do them harm.

Back in 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released their Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. You can read the full document here: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/149782/1/9789241549028_eng.pdf?ua=1

This guideline specifically looks at what we call “free sugars” in our diet. That’s sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides – e.g. glucose syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, rice malt syrup etc..) added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates” (WHO, 2015).

This guideline reviewed all the current evidence (at the time of publication) as to why we should be avoiding sugar and went on to make recommendations as to how much sugar adults and children should be limiting ourselves to. You may be surprised to learn that the evidence for avoiding (or rather limiting) sugar relates primarily to obesity and dental caries. Sugar is often cited as a cause or risk factor for developing a wide range of diseases ranging from Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. However the fact of the matter is that that evidence simply doesn’t exist (yet). What we do know is that overweight and obesity are independent risk factors for chronic or non communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Going back to the WHO guideline, they found a MODERATE level of evidence that lower intakes of free sugars was associated with lower body weights in both adults and children. Please note that this does not mean that sugar causes you to become overweight or obese either. It simply means that people who consumed a diet higher in sugar, were more likely to have a higher body weight. The development of overweight and obesity is a complex issue and trying to narrow it’s cause down to one single nutrient is misguided, but that’s a discussion for another day.

The WHO guideline specifically recommends trying to reduce the intake of free sugars to 10% or less of your total daily energy intake (this is for both adults and children). There is a further recommendation to reduce it to 5% of total daily energy intake, however, the evidence for this recommendation was stated as WEAK, so for the purposes of this article, we will stick with 10%. I’ve represented this below as the number of teaspoons of sugar an “average” sized child with a light activity level, would need to limit their intake to each day.

So I wondered how I was fairing with my own children in relation to this guideline? I have always been well aware of which foods contain added sugars and done my best to limit their intake. I’m no sugar nazzi though, and my personal opinion is that if sugar is packaged up in a food that also contains many nutrients that are beneficial, then I’m fairly happy to include that food in our diet. We certainly limit our intake of foods that are high in sugar but offer little other nutritional benefit (think lollies, cakes, biscuits etc..). That said, we still enjoy a slice of home made cake, ice cream and chocolate in moderation. But day to day with my children’s typical diet, how was I really doing? Was I anywhere near the guideline, or had I totally blown it without even realising? I have to admit I was a bit nervous to take a closer look. Maybe I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was?

I present to you my 4 yr old’s intake on a typical kindy day. All of the free sugars he consumed are listed in bold.

Breakfast: Rolled oats and 1 tsp of honey with reduced fat milk and a glass of unsweetened orange juice


SUGAR: 4 teaspoons

Lunch box: coco cranberry bliss ball, apple + carrot muffin, wrap with roast chicken, carrots, cucumber, rockmelon, plain milk and an apple (to be shared at fruit time)


SUGAR: 2.5 teaspoons

After kindy snack: Strawberry smoothie (frozen strawberries, strawberry yoghurt, water), he also then asked for another coco cranberry bliss ball

SUGAR: less than 1.5 teaspoon

Dinner:

Spaghetti Bolognese, bread and olive oil spread and a fruit platter (he only ate the watermelon)

SUGAR: none

Total: just under 8 teaspoons

Well I have to say I was pretty relieved to see that I’d just made it under the 10% guideline, but I certainly hadn’t made it any lower! I’d also have to admit they we certainly do have “blow out” days from time to time where my child’s sugar intake would be much higher. For example earlier this week I treated the family to a homemade dessert of chocolate self saucing pudding which I served with 1 scoop of ice cream. A dessert like this would have around 3 teaspoons of sugar in it.
I have to say on the whole I feel pretty happy that I’ve got my child’s typical diet fairly much where I want it to be. Sure, I could improve a little by not offering orange juice at breakfast, but he enjoys this and the vitamin C also helps him absorb the iron from his oats (a serve of whole fruit would offer the same benefit).

Calculating your child’s sugar intake is tricky business. It was difficult for me and I’m a dietitian! That’s primarily because our food labels don’t currently require manufacturers to separately list added or free sugars independent of any naturally occurring sugars. So at home, rather than focus on how much sugar your child is currently consuming I’d focus on just minimising fee sugars where you can.

If you want to try and reduce your child’s sugar intake my top tips would be:

1. Watch your child’s intake of sweetened beverages, don’t offer soft drinks or cordials, keep juice to no more than 1/2 a cup per day (unsweetened at that), alternate offering sweetened milk drinks with plain milk or sweeten with fruit (smoothie style)

2. Reduce your intake of processed/packaged snacks – most store bought snacks have a surprising amount of sugar added. Better to make your own and experiment with reducing the sugar content of some of your go to recipes

3. Avoid sugary breakfast cereals and opt for wholegrain “plain” varieties, rolled oats, weetbix and shredded wheat biscuits are go to’s in our house.

3. Keep occasional food as just that, occasional

4. Read labels on the food you buy. Ingredients have to be listed from most to least, if sugar is high up on the list you probably want to avoid it.

On that note, maple syrup, honey, rice malt syrup, glucose syrup, coconut sugar and rapadura sugar are all sugar. Yes some contain more glucose and others more fructose (or other mono or disaccharides), but they ALL need to be counted as sugar. You may have noticed a surge in popularity of so called natural or less refined sweeteners in the community. I see many recipes labeled as either “sugar free” or “refined sugar free” only to see they contain a LOT of honey or maple syrup. Whilst it’s true that many of these “natural” sweeteners do contain other nutrients (for example 100ml of maple syrup contains 89mg of calcium and 1.6 mg of iron amongst other things) whereas white refined sugar offers nothing beyond its carbohydrate content. The point I’d make, though, is that if we are actively working on trying to reduce our intake of sugars, I wouldn’t be focussing on these products for adding extra nutrients into my diet. They are also very expensive. Whilst I do personally use of these “natural” sweeteners, I do so more out of taste more so than for any nutritional benefits they confer. That said, it you can afford it, there’s no harm using honey or maple syrup as your sweetener of choice at home.

How do you think you’re fairing with your child’s sugar intake?

Julia @Bloom x


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It can be tricky to find a recipe for a lunchbox cookie that meets the brief; a good source of nutrients, enough protein and fibre to keep the kids full, not too much sugar, no nuts, and tasty enough that they actually eat them!

 

I’ve tried many a cookie recipe, and played around with a few favourites to come up with one that all 6 members of our family really enjoy. After posting some pics on instagram, we were asked by people to share the recipe… so here it is.

 

It’s definitely not your traditional choc chip cookie, and may not be sweet enough for some, so check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe for modification tips if needed.

 

Chia sunflower double choc cookies (Dairy free)

Ingredients

100g Nuttelex olive oil light, melted and cooled

1/4 c maple syrup or honey

1 egg

2 tsp natural vanilla essence

 

1/2 c ground sunflower seeds

1/2 c wholemeal self raising flour

1 1/2 c quick oats

1/4 c cocoa powder or cacao

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

2 tsp mixed chia seeds

 

1/3 c dark choc chips ( I use Callebaut Belgian Callets from Costco, and they are dairy free)

 

Method

Mix all wet ingredients together (cooled melted nuttelex, maple syrup, egg and vanilla essence) until combined.

Stir together all the remaining dry ingredients, except for the choc chips) removing any lumps.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until combined. The final consistency shouldn’t be too wet. (If it is, scatter through some more oats)  Then fold through choc chips.

Roll into balls, and place on tray with 5 cm space between, and press lightly to form a cookie shape.

Bake at 180 deg for 15-18 mins, or until cooked to your liking.
(15 min is perfect for my oven which runs quite hot)

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

 

NOTES

They may soften and become more like a whoopee pie consistency if not all eaten on the first day, but my kids really like them either way.

These cookies are on the more savory side of a sweet cookie! If your kids prefer a sweeter cookie you may need to start with more maple syrup, or add a little brown sugar, and gradually decrease the amount of sweetness. Or use a few extra choc chips 😉 .

You can also make them egg free if you need to for allergies or vegan diets, by simply omitting the egg, but decrease the oats to about 1 cup, otherwise the mixture will be too dry.
My best advice is to have a play around and see how they work best for your tribe… the cookies you get to taste test along the way are all in the name of science 🙂
x Angela @ Bloom 🌿

 

 

 


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We’re realists here at Bloom Nutrition Studio. Whilst we prioritise serving our kids real food that’s mostly made by us, lets be honest, there isn’t always enough hours in the day to do this. Over time I’ve built up a little list of go to packaged foods that I’m happy to serve my family and to help fill in the gaps when I simply don’t have the time or energy to cook.

To that end we thought we would help you on this journey to feed your family by providing you with some ideas for items that you can put in the lunchbox that perhaps you haven’t thought of before, or new products we’ve found that have hit the supermarket shelf.
We hope you find this useful!

Buy it:

Nudie have just released a variety of smoothie type drinks in convenient “fruit boxes” that can go straight into the lunchbox. They can be stored at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about them going off in the lunchbox if stored in the sun. What I like about them is that the sugar content is low. The variety shown above contains 6.8g of sugar per 100ml, which is less than most flavoured milks (usually around 10g/100m). They are sweetened with real fruit, maple syrup and dairy products (depending on the flavour you buy). The one shown is dairy free.Whilst they don’t contain any added preservatives, artificial colours or flavours they do include a “natural flavour”. Whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with using a natural flavour, I can always taste it, and personally I prefer my kids to experience the natural flavours of food. I suspect it’s added as the pasteurisation type process a product like this would go through, probably affects the natural taste. All in all, it’s something I’d be happy to include in my child’s lunchbox when I don’t have time to make a smoothie myself.

Have you tried Bulla plain or flavoured cottage cheese? It’s been around for years and is a great snack for kids and busy Mums alike. It’s a brilliant source of protein and calcium and unlike other varieties of cheese is low calorie too. I like it on wholegrain crackers.

Make it:

Have you tried sending your kids to school with a smoothie? If you have a high speed blender it will take you only a few minutes to do and it can be a great way of getting some extra fruit and veggies into the lunchbox. You will need an insulated drinking container to ensure it stays sufficiently cool.
My kids are using these ones from kmart. They don’t leak, keep the drinks very cold for the entire school day and at $7 what’s there to complain about??
http://www.kmart.com.au/product/double-wall-insulated-500ml-bottle-blue/1754374

Strawberry Smoothie:

1 cup of frozen strawberries
1/2 cup of strawberry yoghurt
water up to 700ml
ice if desired.

Blend and serve.

Stuck in a rut? try this…..

Breakfast wrap

1 slice of wholemeal mountain bread
Honey
Toasted muesli (nut free for school)
Apple cut into match sticks

Spread the wrap with a thin layer of honey. Sprinkle with muesli and apple pieces. Roll and cut into small bites size pieces or leave as a larger roll for older children.

Until next time…

Bloom x

This post is not sponsored


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At the beginning of a new term parents are often primed with nutrition goals, and the energy to fulfil them. But sometimes, particularly as a school term progresses, it can feel like you are a B track stuck on repeat – making the same lunch box, over and over again.

Pretty soon either you or your children tire of this lunch rut, or you may start to realise that through this lack of variety, your child is missing the mark on Australian Dietary Guideline # 2 – exposure to and enjoyment of wide variety of foods.

When you want to make changes, it can seem a world away to reach some of the insta-perfect lunches online – especially if you have a fussy eater in the family, or don’t have huge amounts of time on your hands for cartoon style lunch box prep. But here are some tips that get you moving in the right direction for both variety and nutrition, but don’t require hours of painstaking preparation.

 

Think outside the (lunch)box

It doesn’t have to come in a packet to be a recess snack… Look at the types of foods your children will choose for themselves when they open the refrigerator, and aim to add these fresh foods to the lunch box. If you or your kids do really like packets (for portability, freshness or keeping foods separated), buy some reusable or biodegradable ziplock bags and put real food in. My lunch boxes will often have throw in fridge staples of berries, mini cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cheese sticks or yogurt portions.

If you are choosing pre packaged snacks, try to stick to those that contain core foods (like fruit, veg, dairy, whole grains), and fit the healthy canteen guidelines of <600kg (~140 Cal) and 3g or less of saturated fat per serve. This doesn’t mean a food is automatically the most healthy choice, but it does mean the food will contain more nutrients if it contains some core foods, and the portion size of these foods is more acceptable. Ideally try to get foods with the highest fibre content too, if it’s listed on the label, aim for 2g or more per serve. Here are some of my favourite lunch box packaged snacks to throw in at the last minute.

It doesn’t have to be sandwiches… Use breakfast items or dinner leftovers for lunches. Think omelette rolls, half an avocado squeezed with lemon, cereal and berries to dump into a yogurt pot, leftover cold meat, eggs, quiche, salad, roast veggies or left over pasta, soup, curry, etc served in a thermos. Jump on pinterest and search non sandwich lunches – theres a whole host of ideas.

 

Get the kids on board

Ask each child to write a list of everything they are happy to have in their lunch box, food group by food group (use the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating -AGHE- picture as a prompt), and from breakfast items or your regular dinner rotations. Help them be as specific as they can, so you know how many different options are on offer. For example from the Dairy group the list might include – Fresh milk in a bottle, UHT milk box, Flavoured milk box, cheese slice, grated cheese, cheese stick, string cheese, bocconcini balls, cow cheese triangles, babble cheese, natural yogurt, flavoured yogurt, custard pots, chia puddings….. list everything they like to eat from each group to maximise your options! Stick this list up on the fridge for easy reference, and to allow the addition of new items as you progress.

Get kids involved with the preparation. I know we’ve said it before, but it really does help! On the weekend, see if you can make a healthy baked item with your kids – muffins, biscuits, scrolls, brownies, quiches etc, to freeze for the week ahead. Getting kids involved increases their ownership of that healthy food, and the likelihood that they will eat and enjoy it. Try to make a different recipe each weekend to find new family favourites. Try recipes that don’t have too much added sugar, and include ingredients like wholemeal flour, oats, fruits, veggies, eggs, yogurt, olive oil or ground seeds for nutrient boosts.

If kids are making their own lunches, ask them to pick something out of each category of the AGHE plate for their lunchbox – so 1 fruit, 1 veg, 1 carb option (worth a couple of serves), 1 protein, 1 dairy. Spy any gaps – in food groups, or the amount of food they need, and either they or you can throw in an extra choice if needed.

 

Food chaining

This is a term which describes the technique of applying very small changes to the types of foods a child will eat, to increase the acceptability of new foods and improve variety. It’s a system that works well with extremely picky eaters, or highly sensitive or selective children, like kids with ASD, or kids with a past history of medical conditions that affected their feeding, like food allergies or reflux. You can read more about it here.

With some children you may need to make what feel like sideways steps with nutrition, to make gains in variety. By this I mean choosing foods that aren’t necessarily more healthy, to increase the variety of food eaten. While at first their nutrition might not seem to be much improved, if the approach is consistent and progressive, it will eventually lead to eating more of all types of foods, including healthy foods.

So for these kids’ lunch boxes, think swapping foods for “close cousins”. Plain water crackers for water crackers with sesame seeds, or plain rice crackers, then onto puffed rice crackers or puffed vegetable crisps with sesame seeds, then something slightly different again. These are small steps, but they slowly introduce children to a wider variety of food. (If making even these very small steps is too difficult or distressing for your child, or you feel like this approach is something that you could benefit from some guidance with, see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian or Speech Pathologist in your area who is trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding).

Finally – if your kids are naturally less adventurous with food – it’s ok to take small, but consistent, steps to improve things. Over time, these small changes will make way to bigger changes in dietary patterns. With consistency, encouragement and a greater involvement with foods (see our post on “From fussy to fabulous – Helping your child enjoy new family meals”) children can successfully broaden their variety and improve their nutrition, to be healthy, feel great, and grow well.

Now that’s winning.

x Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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I was recently asked a few canteen questions by a journalist – “How often is it ok for parents to organise a canteen lunch without feeling guilty? How do you navigate the school canteen menu to work out the healthy choices, and how can parents deal with pressure from kids to order unhealthy choices?”. So here’s a little bit of background for you on how to make the best choices when it comes to your school canteen.

Before we begin, it needs to be said – we need to remove “guilt” from all the vocabulary that surrounds eating and feeding our families! Parenting is a tough gig, and Bloom is not in the business of putting added, unnecessary pressure on our family feeding relationships. From our inception we have always wanted to place “being real over being ideal”. So with that in mind, here a few tips to navigate the schools canteen minefield!

How often it’s best to order from your canteen depends on the choices available to you, and the choices you make. Ordering meals and snacks that reflect good eating choices mean you can confidently use the canteen to meet your little one’s food needs more regularly, if thats what you’re keen to do.

Most Australian schools follow, or aim to follow state canteen guidelines. These generally use a traffic light system to indicate healthier and unhealthy choices ( NSW has recently released a different balance system using health star ratings).

The red, amber and green categories in the traffic light system give you a good guide, and many canteens display their menus this way. Red foods should not be available on the regular school menu, outside of a few discreet occasions. Amber and Green foods should be the choices available to families, where amber is to “choose carefully” and green is “go”! There are different cut offs state by state, but they are relatively similar, and no matter where you live, the more green choices you make the more nutritious your family’s canteen food choices will be.

So at the canteen, as with healthy eating at home, the more you base your meal and snack choices around fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains the more nutritious the food will be.

Menus obviously differ between schools, but try and centre canteen choices around options that feature whole foods as the core ingredients – vegetables, fruits, lean protein, dairy, and whole grain cereals.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) food plate gives a rough visual indication of what proportions to base kids canteen meals (or lunch boxes) on – try and make at least 1/3 -1/2 meal veg and fruit, then split the rest 1/2 wholegrain cereals, 1/2 combined lean protein/dairy. Check it out here.

If your canteen sells meals like: vegetable based stir-frys, jacket potatoes with vegetables and lean meat toppings, meat and salad sandwiches, wraps or wholegrain rolls, and sushi rolls these are some really good options. For snacks, items like: fresh fruit salads, fruit snack packs, smoothies, yogurts, or veggies with dips and crackers are great choices you can regularly make with confidence.

To avoid conflicts, uneaten lunches and to improve kids understanding about the importance of the foods they eat, children should definitely be involved in the choice of their foods from the canteen. Parents can provide a selection of 3 or 4 options they are happy for their children to choose from, and let kids choose their preference from there. Eg “Today would you like sushi, stir-fry, fried rice or a chicken and salad roll?”.

This method fits really well with Ellyn Satter’s  Division of Responsibility in feeding, “the parent provides, child decides” – this still applies even if you are not preparing the food yourself.

And as far as how can parents deal with the pressure from a child to order unhealthy items?

If you’re using the canteen regularly, you need to approach it the same way you would filling a healthy lunch box, and make nutritious choices.

Talk openly about it with your child, and set an agreement in place. School kids can understand that food is fuel for all the great things they want to do, and you need to fuel your body well.

Less healthy options should only be chosen occasionally, for example limit those items to say a “free choice day” once per term. (Even the reduced fat pastry items like pies and sausage rolls are best avoided more often than this. Even if they can just make it into the amber category, as they don’t provide any of the great nutritional benefits of vegetables, fruit, dairy and wholegrains.)

However, with good planning and food choices, parents definitely can pack quick, nutritious lunches from home at a much lower price. Want more info on how to pack a nutritious balanced lunchbox? One that’s healthy, but importantly quick and easy? Stay tuned for our next blog post…

Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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When it comes to children’s snacks, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of foods that you make yourself at home are going to be vastly superior to anything you buy from a store. I’ve now assembled a repertoire of snacks that I make myself that the kids (mostly) like. I try to vary what I bake from week to week and I usually bake that little bit extra to ensure I’ve got a few options in the freezer.

We’ve said it before here at Bloom and we’ll say it again, the best way to ensure that you are providing your family with a healthy diet is to plan for it. I always think about what snack I’ll be baking for the week and make sure I include it on my shopping list. I also have a plan for when I’m cooking that snack (generally a Monday, when I also prep my salad bases for the week). I generally pack two snacks – one sweet (this is my home baked option) and a more savoury option (this is more likely to be a store bought item such as wholegrain crackers and cheese), and there’s always fruit, at least one serve, if not two. When it comes to fruit, again planning helps. Children need two serves of fruit each day. I frequently serve fruit smoothies as an after school snack and we also like a fruit platter after dinner. If I know I’m not going to be doing one of those two options, then I definitely pack two serves in the lunchbox. I’ll also pack an extra snack if my kids after school sport. Then there’s always some verge sticks and a dairy item included.

All things considered, none of us are superwoman and there are times when we all need to reach for packaged snacks to fill that hole in the lunchbox. I know for me that as the term wears on, I simply tire of the routine, and find myself reaching for a few more store bought snacks as I just need a break from it all.

So what do you reach for in those times? Below I share with you my top picks for store bought snacks, and few I’d recommend you avoid.

1. Raisin Toast

I really don’t think you can go past raisin toast (or fruit bread as it is also known) as a back up snack. I’ve always got a loaf in my freezer. Sure it has some added sugar, but most of the sugar comes from the added dried fruit. It’s low GI, filling and has around 120 calories per buttered slice (1 slice is plenty for a recess snack). Tip top have also just realised a wholemeal Raisin toast and that’s certainly got my tick of approval

 

2. Cheese and Crackers

Again another snack option that you can’t really go wrong with. I’m not really a fan of the pre-packaged cheese and biscuit packs as they cost a fortune. Even when you’re low on time you can still still grab a handful of crackers and cut a slice of cheese (or a cheese stick if you really need to). Not all crackers are created equal though. You definitely want to focus on buying a wholegrain variety (look for those with at least 4g of fibre per 100g) and with a sodium content less than 400mg/100g (harder to find).
My top picks would be Ryvita wholegrain crisp breads (I’d suggest breaking two in halves as they are larger), Vita-Wheat crisp bread range and crackers (note these all exceed 400mg of sodium/100g,but most are under 500g/100g) and the Mary’s Gone Crackers range (although please note these are a more expensive option).
Team with your child’s preferred cheese and you have a filling snack option high in fibre, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids (from the seeds), calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

3. Roasted Chickpeas and Fava Beans

A newcomer to the snack market I think the texture of these products will appeal to many kids.
They come in plain (lightly salted), as well a variety of other flavours. I love that they come in individually wrapped portions so you can simply grab and chuck into the lunchbox. They also hit the mark for fibre content, sodium and overall calories, not to mention they also count towards your child’s daily intake of vegetables!

 

4. Popcorn

Another option that’s sure to be a hit with most kids that is filling and high in fibre. I’d recommend you check what type of oil your popcorn is cooked in (or better yet go for air popped, although many kids may find this too bland) and avoid any cooked in palm oil (a saturated fat we want to avoid).
Also look for those with a lower sodium content, ideally less than 400mg per 100g. I’d also stay away from any of the sweetened varieties, children don’t need the extra sugar in these products.

My pick would be Cobs natural sea salt variety. I buy it in the large packs and portion it out to save money, but if you’re really low on time you may prefer the individually packed option.

 

5. Muesli Bar

  

I couldn’t really compile this list without including a muesli bar, they’re a staple in many lunch boxes. There are a huge variety of muesli bars on the market and it can be hard to sort your way through them all and make a nutritious choice. In theory there’s lots to like about muesli bars. Made from wholegrain oats that contribute B-vitmains and fibre many have added dried fruit, seeds and nuts. All good. The problem is that they need something to stick them together. Here’s where the sugar comes in, and in many products it’s multiple different types of added sugar (one product I looked at contained glucose, sugar, invert sugar and honey and this is not unusual).
The second problem is that most schools in Australia are “Nut Free” which automatically rules out a lot of the products on the market. For the record I have less problem with the sugar in muesli bars that also contain a large amount of nuts, seeds and wholegrains. If the product overall is contributing lots of beneficial nutrients into the diet (think fibre, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins) I’m more likely to be lenient on the sugar content. As I heard another dietitian say, “I judge sugar by the company it keeps”. I find many of the nut free muesli bars on the market are just oats and a large amount of sugar and are best avoided.

My two picks for commercial muesli bars would be the Nice and Natural Super Grains muesli Bar (apricot, coconut, spelt, and chia) and the Freedom Foods Ancient Grains muesli bar. Both contain just over 1 tsp of sugar per bar and are good sources of fibre.

 

Finally a word about packaged snacks I don’t like.
The one thing I do try to avoid in my kid’s lunch boxes are highly processed carbohydrate based snacks. I’m thinking savoury crackers that aren’t whole grain (eg Jatz or Ritz biscuits, water crackers and rice crackers). Many of these products have a very high sodium content and simply aren’t filling. Although the calorie content of rice crackers is low, you need a lot to fill you up. My kids could easily devour a packet and be looking for more food. I also prefer to stay away from snacks with a lot of added flavours, e.g. BBQ/pizza flavoured biscuits. In addition to being high in sodium, they represent flavours that simply aren’t present in whole foods. Whilst there is no evidence for this, I think the more kids have these highly flavoured foods, the more they seek them out, rather than learning to appreciate the natural flavour of whole foods.
Similarly, I also prefer to avoid cartoon themed packaged sweet biscuits that are particularly aimed at children. Whilst the calorie content of many of these products are kept low thanks to their small serve size, the reality is that they’re not much more than refined flour, sugar and flavour. Many have an “improved” nutrient profile with the addition of inulin (a form of soluble fibre), but i really think there are much better choices you could be making for your child.
I’d be lying if I said I never bought these snacks. My kids like to have what they see other kids with, so occasionally I do buy them, but for the most part my kids know these aren’t regular choices for them.

If you’d like more information about making good snack choices for your child’s lunchbox check out the rest in our series on School Lunches and Snacks for kids.

Julia @ Bloom 🌿


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Google for some research on school lunches and you can find a vast array of content.

From a news channel running a story about the number of children who attend school with no lunch, or money to buy it, to images of a RRP $100+ shiny stainless steel lunch box, filled with almost nothing but kale, capsicum and carrots painstakingly cut into star shapes, to studies showing many Aussie schools struggle to meet government healthy canteen guidelines.

Good nutrition should be within the reach of all children, not only those with parents who have time to cut vegetables into fun shapes.

In light of this, here at Bloom we are embarking on a series of posts about kids lunches and snacks. About keeping it real, and getting it right, no matter if you’re short on time, sticking to a grocery budget, or navigating the canteen menu.

Check out Julia’s post on her favourite packet snacks to throw into a lunchbox when she’s short on time here… with more to follow on shortcuts to deciphering snack food labels, navigating the school canteen, and other school lunch hacks.

Let us know what you’d like to know more about when it comes to your child’s school lunch… look forward to hearing from you!

Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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Makes 21 serves

Ingredients:

13 medjool dates (pitted)
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (plus extra for rolling)
2 tsp coco powder
2 TBS of light coconut milk

 

Method:

Put all ingredients into your food processor.

Blitz until the mixture resembles a cookie dough consistency.

The mixture should be firm enough that you can roll it into balls easily.

Using your hands roll into small balls, and coat in desiccated coconut.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.


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This recipe is a little akin to a baked muesli bar.

It’s fairly energy dense (but also highly nutritious) because of all the seeds, so cut it into small squares to serve.

x Bloom

 

Makes: 20 pieces

Ingredients

125g butter melted
1 cup of cornflakes crushed
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup castor sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup golden syrup
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
2 Tablespoons sunflowers seeds
1/3 cup pepitas

 

Method:

Using a food processor grind the chia, sunflowers seeds and pepitas until fine.

In a large bowl add the seed mix to the remaining dry ingredients.

In a saucepan over low heat melt the butter, golden syrup and castor sugar. Mix until castor sugar had completely dissolved.

Add the melted butter mixture to the dry ingredients until well combined.

Flatten mixture into a 20cm x 20cm square loaf tin.

Bake for approx. 15 mins or until golden at 180 degrees celsius. Cut into small squares for the lunchbox.

Keeps frozen for 3 months