With so much conflicting information around it can often be a challenge to make the right food choices. It’s all about good quality proteins, key nutrients and portion control. The word “healthy” has different meanings to different people. To some it means plenty of vegetables and to others, it means lots of grains and dried fruit. Some may say that anything natural has to be healthy, while others consider only the fat and sugar content. Even amongst nutritionists and dietitians the specifics about what “healthy” means in a whole diet context is passionately debated. If we consider what nutrition is from a purely scientific perspective, good nutrition or health means giving the body the key nutrients it needs; the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the right amounts and at the right times. For growing children this means also providing all the essential vitamins and minerals that they need for optimal growth and development. If this scientific definition of “healthy” is then transferred into real food terms, it means that “healthy” food options need to provide a number of these key nutrients, and hence the entire “nutritional profile” of a food needs to be considered as opposed to just its fat, sugar or fibre content.

To make this description a little clearer, let’s compare the nutritional profile of ice cream versus yoghurt. Ice cream is generally thought of as a product that is far less healthy than yoghurt but if you consider that a tub of yoghurt can contain up to 30g of total carbohydrate and 800 kilojoules compared to a portion controlled low fat ice cream on a stick which contains just 400kJ and just 20g of total carbohydrate, you can again see that it can be easy to be mislead by products that are routinely put into a “healthy” category. For these reasons, you should alway consider the entire nutrient profile of any recipes that say “healthy for kids”  when classifying each meal and snack option.

For both meals and snacks, portion control, and as a result, kilojoules have been considered, as well as the relative amounts of key nutrients including low GI carbohydrates and good quality proteins. Keeping saturated, or bad fat as low as possible has been a key focus, as has making sure that each recipe offers something nutritionally, whether it be fibre, calcium or iron. 

Nutrient Criteria

Main Meals

  • 2000kJ per serve
  • 3 saturated fat
  • 10g protein
  • 45g total
  • carbohydrate
  • Source of fibre or iron
  • Contains vegetables

 

Snacks

  • 1000kJ per serve 
  • 3 saturated fat
  • 5g protein
  • 30g total
  • carbohydrate
  • Source of calcium, fibre or iron

 

Here’s an inspired lunch guaranteed to pep up any lunchbox.

 Vegetarian calzones:

Makes

8

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small red capsicum, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small green capsicum, finely chopped
  • 4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup drained pineapple pieces in natural juice
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salt-reduced tomato paste

Method

  1. Combine yeast, sugar and 1 tablespoon plain flour in a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup warm water until yeast has dissolved. Cover. Stand in a warm place for 15 minutes or until mixture is foaming.
  2. Place wholemeal plain flour and remaining plain flour in a food processor. With the motor running, add yeast mixture and oil. Process until mixture forms a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth. Place dough in a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Lightly dust 2 large baking trays with flour. Combine capsicum, mushroom, onion, pineapple and cheese in a bowl.
  4. Using your fist, punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead until smooth. Divide into 8 portions. Using a lightly dusted rolling pin, roll each portion out to a 12cm round. Spread each round with 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste. Top half of each round with one-eighth vegetable mixture. Fold pastry over to enclose filling. Pinch edges together to seal. Place on prepared trays.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Notes

  •   Complete lunchbox: Pack with fresh fruit or fruit tub