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Preparing a nutritious and tasty lunch box for children to take to school can be a big challenge for parents.
Since children spend a large portion of their time at school, the food they eat there is of vital importance.
Lisa Jordan, a Johannesburg dietitian, says: "A good lunch is critical for growth and development and it's no surprise that it also plays a role in behaviour, mental function and school performance."
According to a National Household Food Consumption survey, more than 16 percent of children between the ages of one and nine in urban areas are overweight.
Jordan says unhealthy lunch boxes play a big part in obesity.
"Most of the food in most school tuck shops, at vendors and vending machines is fairly high in fat and sugar owing to the use of processed foods," she says.
"So it is important for parents to plan and pack healthy lunch boxes for their kids."
But Jordan also advises parents to always keep their children's likes and dislikes in mind and to avoid giving them food in their lunch boxes that they do not like. Otherwise they won't eat it
Tomato and basil finger sandwiches:
A smear of reduced-fat mayonnaise and a little fresh basil allow perfectly ripe tomatoes to shine.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 slices whole-wheat bread
8 teaspoons reduced-fat mayonnaise, divided
4 thick slices tomato
4 teaspoons sliced fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cut bread into rounds, slightly larger than your tomato.
Spread each slice with 2 teaspoons mayonnaise.
Top with tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.
Health advantages: low calorie, low saturated fat, low cholesterol, low sodium, heart healthy.
Preparing a lunch box
lAlways choose fruits that are easy to eat and not messy.
lWrite a riddle on the peel of a banana or an orange or draw a cartoon picture with words of endearment or encouragement to brighten up your child's day.
lVary the bread offerings from plain bread to raisin bread, pita pockets, dinner rolls, flour tortillas or mini-bagels.
lPack tuna salad, peanut butter or cheese spread in a separate container to be spooned on at lunch time so the cakes don't get soggy.
lIf your child likes cold pizza, send it along for lunch. Pizza is actually not a bad choice.