As children begin to start school, life may become busier, so meal planning can be a great way to help make sure the whole family are eating a healthier diet. More information on how to cook family meals in a healthier way can be found in our in the kitchen pages.
In Scotland, school lunches are currently free for all children between school nursery and primary 5. To find out if your child is eligible for free school meals past this age you can visit: School meals - mygov.scot.
However, if your child prefers to have a packed lunch there are lots of healthy options:
- By basing lunches on high fibre foods like wholegrain bread, or wholemeal wraps you can help keep your child feeling fuller for longer. If they aren’t keen on wholegrain foods, try introducing half and half varieties.
- Including sticks of carrot and cucumber alongside a dip like reduced-fat hummus is a great way to help your child reach five a day.
- Common sandwich fillers, like ham and cheese can both be high in salt or fat. You could switch processed red meat for chicken or turkey, and using reduced fat cheeses can help build a healthier meal for your child.
- Try lower-fat spread or reduced-fat cream cheese instead of full fat mayonnaise or butter in sandwiches.
- There are ways to include a wide variety of different fruit and vegetables in your child’s lunch or as a snack, such as mini salad pots with tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and carrot sticks.
- Dried fruit is another option, just take care around sweetened varieties or those that are coated.
- Baked crisps, popcorn or rice cakes in the place of normal crisps are a healthier option.
Cereals and cereal products can add a lot of sugar to the diets of primary school-aged children, even though they are often marketed as healthier options. Products targeted at children don’t always have traffic light labelling so it is useful to check food labels.
- Choosing an unsweetened wholewheat or oat-based cereal is better than those high in added sugar.
- To make plain cereals or porridge more interesting, you could try providing topper options like banana, berries or dried fruit. Or, you can add more flavour with some cinnamon.
- Sugar is often added to drinks like fizzy juice, squash, cordial, and flavoured milks, so these should ideally not be given to children. Sugary drinks are especially damaging to your child’s teeth if they are served between meals.
- Although a glass of fruit juice or a smoothie can count towards their five-a-day, these are also high in sugar so limit them to no more than one small glass or 150ml.
- For drinks, the best options are water or lower-fat milk.
- Making your own snacks allows you to supervise the sugar in your child’s diet, and it can also be more fun for them to help out!
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