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Are you packing the right lunch for your child?

Priya Khanna, Seema Tarneja | May 12, 2005


It is a simple, innocuous thing. Packing lunch for your child to eat at school.

But it is extremely important. For the simple reason that it is one of your child's main meals in the day.

imageShould you not take care and ensure your child gets the right kind of food, then? 

That is why you must consider the nutritional needs of a growing child when planning your child's lunch.

Most schools have a short recess as well as a long recess. Most school also provide meals on the premises. But they are usually the ready-to-eat variety, like vada pavs, samosas, etc.

Schools also provide lunchtime meals, like thalis. Of course, children ignore them because they could be monotonous.

What you need to know:

A packed lunch should meet one-third to one-fourth of the daily requirement of your child.

Your child spends most of his/ her time at school, which means around 600 to 700 calories spent.

On an average, make sure you provide 18 to 20 grams of protein in the packed lunch.

Planning can be difficult since you have to consider the following factors:

i. It should meet the vitamin and mineral requirements.

ii. The food should be palatable even when it is cold.

iii. It should be easy to carry and pack.

iv. Your child must like it!

v. You must provide good quality protein in moderate amounts.

vi. You must provide a generous amount of carbohydrates.

vii. You must also provide fat, which is necessary at this stage of life.

Some guidelines you can follow:

i. Avoid packing in too many fried items.

ii. Avoid giving junk foods, like biscuits; farsans like wafers, chips, bread sticks, Kurkure, Lays, etc. These provide calories without meeting your child's nutrient needs.

Give them once in a while to keep your child happy.

iii. Raw vegetables can be made interesting when served in the right manner.

For instance, you could use filler vegetables, like cucumber, lettuce, peppers, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, etc, in sandwiches to help kids get their daily serving of vegetables.

Other options like egg/ chicken/ cheese sandwiches made of hung yogurt and veggies can also be used.

You could also use veggies in cutlets like with potato and cheese cutlets, pohe cutlets, vegetable burgers, bread rolls, pizzas, etc.

iv. Use wholewheat/ bran bread or soya buns, wheat buns, or wheatflour rotis. Avoid products made from refined flour (maida).

v. If your child has long school hours, it is all the more important to pack a complete meal which is substantial.

Go for parathas stuffed with different vegetables, cheese, cottage cheese, chicken/ egg (if possible), puri bhaji, usal (sprouts) with brown bread, pav bhaji, dal paratha with veggies, idli and sambhar, puran poli, puri chole and halwa, Frankies made from rotis or just plain roti and subzi sometimes will do.

vi. Child should always carry nuts, like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts or granola bars to munch in between. 

vii. A bonus to get them to eat at lunch is a piece of fruit and some fresh veggies.


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