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What is the perfect lunch box for your child? By Mirna Sabbagh, Adult and child nutritionist at myPediaclinic in Dubai

Schools have started and mothers are wondering what to pack for their children’s lunch box. Wether you have a toddler, child, or teenager, this is for you. Mirna Sabbaghnutritionist and IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) at myPediaclinic (Voted best pediatric clinic in Dubai) discusses the perfect lunch box on the following post, followed by the interview she did on the topic on Al-Arabiya at the bottom.

What are the components of the perfect lunch box?

Every lunch box should contain a source of health carbohydrates such as whole grain toast, brown rice, or any other whole grain such as oats, freekeh, or burgul (broken wheat). It should also include a protein such as meat, chicken, fish. It should also include vegetables, a fruit, a source of fat (such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts if allowed at the school)

What are some examples of ideal lunch boxes depending on age?

Nursery or preschool: Nursery or preschool students get lots of attention over meal time. They also have their meals white sitting. For this reason it is easier to send them stews or home cooked food that can be eaten with a spoon. In addition, preschool children need lots of iron for their rapid development. An ideal lunch box for a pre-schooler would be lentils and brown rice as a main course cooked with olive oil, with a side of chopped vegetables, and a fruit to be taken over snack time with a cup of milk

KG1-1st grade: Kids ages 2-6 still get lots of attention over lunch time and can use spoons and forks and still have lots of iron needs even though less than the younger ones. For kids this age, I suggest brown pasta, with cooked vegetables, and chicken or meat as an example.

Grade 1- Grade 8: Children this age start to look forward to playing during break time and socializing and prefer meals that can be eaten by hand and do not need utensils. At this age I suggest skewers as an example of a healthy meal. Chicken skewers with vegetables and cheese skewers with vegetables.

Grade 9 and above: Teenagers usually prefer to eat school foods with friends or opt for easy to sandwiches. It is important for the sandwich to be rich in all the components mentioned such as fats, healthy carbohydrates and proteins. For this reason I would recommend whole grain toast, with turkey, lettuce, and avocados as a main meal.

How about snacks?

For optimal energy levels and attention I would recommend only fruits as snacks. I do not recommend juices as they enter and exit the body very quickly giving the body with short term energy only. I would also avoid any added sugars during the school day. Make non-fruit snacks only for occasions and even then, I recommend something healthy such as dark chocolate.

Is this all necessary? My kids eat their main courses at home.

It is quite neccessary because children spend more time at school or nursery than at home. For this reason, what they have at school or nurery constitutes about 1/3 or 1/2 of their daily intake. For children to meet all their nutritional needs, their lunch boxes need to be prepared with the same thought and ingredients as the food given at home. In addition, the right combination of foods will allow your kids to have more energy at school and the proper brain focus.

This is difficult and not practical, isn’t there an easier way?

Most parents will think that this is difficult to achieve, however it is actually quite easy with proper preparation, planning, and knowledge. For example, creating a weekly plan can make things much easier.

Below is Mirna Sabbagh’s interview on Al-Arabiya discussing the perfect lunch box. You can book an appointment with Mirna on 04-4205926 or clicking Make An Appointment button.

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