Do you struggle to put together creative and healthy school lunches for your kids? Want to know which foods will boost brainpower and which foods will harm concentration? Then these 5 FREE Brain Boosting LUNCHBOX IDEAS are for you! We give you the best creative tricks and healthy snacks to keep them alert and focused at school, with loads of nutrition too! Here they are:
#1. Protein for the pro's: Cheesy Fruit Kebabs
Studies show that children who eat lean protein during the day, tend to stay alert and sharp in the classroom. It has long been known that protein is essential 'brain food' to keep the brain focused and in tip top working order. Try to always include lean protein such as shaved chicken or tuna - and remember that if your kids are picky eaters, you can always give them lean hard cheese cubes (a protein) with apple pieces - a firm favourite taste sensation combination! Mix things up with different fruit squares alternating with cheese cubes on a child-safe kebab (if your child is older and safe around string - use twine to thread them instead of sharp sticks that can be dangerous if a child trips while eating). Call them 'cheesy fruit necklaces' for the girls, and 'cheesy fruit chains' for the boys.
#2. Shape their minds too: Rainbow Animal Bread
Bread needn't be boring. Choose wholewheat bread (or even better, bake your own wholewheat loaf with natural food colouring for 'rainbow bread'!) and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. Shapes that resemble animals are great brain teasers and can help spark discussions in the evening, perhaps a fun fact each night about the animal in question. For older kids, breads can be experimented with - try wheat-free rye (wheat intolerance can cause attention difficulties), various seed breads and brown-rice cakes for different textures and flavours. Be warned that rice cakes tend to go soggy, so keep the filling in a small container for them to apply at school.
#3. Dip into the unknown: Veggie 'Claws'
Many parents try in vain to get their kids to eat vegetables in school lunches. Instead of sneaking veggies under lettuce leaves and jamming them into the hidden corners of the lunchbox - let them take centre stage! Try taking some carrot and cucumber sticks, and peeling the skin off, taper the ends into points (like a pencil). These veggie 'claws' can be great to dip into tasty dips of hummus or plain yoghurt, even adding lemon juice and a dash of pepper if your child likes different tastes. Experiment beforehand and see which dips are popular with your child. You may want to even do a simple boiled egg and low fat mayo dip. These veggie 'claws' are a big hit - especially among school friends. Remember that you never want to force food onto your children -if you think you may be unknowingly setting up an unhealthy relationship with food for your child, read our checklist here.
#4. Brain Booster - Brown Rice Surprise
On the nights that you cook brown rice for dinner, keep a little extra aside for the next day's lunch. Cold rice salads can be a great low GI food that can be dressed up in a jiffy: add chopped tomatoes, a can of corn, beans, peas or anything else you have leftover from the previous dinner. Add a separate container of dressing (if you know your child has a low-fat or fat-free favourite). Brown rice can be slightly curried to give a very mild curry flavour, depending on how well your child does with unusual tastes.
#5. The Good Sweet Treat: Banana Torpedo
This is a winner when your child asks for sweet treats in his or her lunchbox. Too much sugar 'fogs' the brain and leads to hyperactivity/behavioural issues and brain drain syndrome where a child is excited from a sugar rush and can't sit still or concentrate properly (which can mimic the signs of ADHD), followed by a blood sugar drop and lethargy and fatigue. A much healthier alternative to sweets is natural sugars combined with low GI foods such as wholewheat wraps and no-sugar peanut butter. Spread peanut butter (the brand that has no added sugar or salt) on a toasted whole-wheat wrap, then sprinkle with raisins and drizzle with a teeny bit of natural honey or agave syrup. Place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap, then roll, pressing gently to break the banana and form a cylinder shape around it. These banana torpedo wraps are a great choice on days with after-school sport or activities for extra energy.