Worryingly, more children are developing digestive problems that were once the reserve of us adults. As we head into a new school year, dietitian Caoimhe McDonald tells us how to avoid school lunches being a pain in the stomach, offering parents advice and tips on creating a balanced, healthy, and still appealing, lunchbox.
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Unfortunately, digestive problems such as tummy pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation are becoming more frequent in children. They can result from a multitude of factors, but inappropriate eating habits can often be a contributing factor.
“The foods that children eat can have a profound effect on their health,” says dietitian Caoimhe McDonald.
“Good nutrition supports a child’s immune system, brain function, growth and repair and supports recovery from childhood illnesses, vaccinations and sports injuries. Influencing children at an early age to eat well is one of the most important things you can do for their health and well-being.”
Good Nutrition Tips for School Lunches
Did you know the recommended daily intake for children between the ages of 4 and 8 years is 1.6 litres of water? By replacing juices and cordials with a bottle of water in your child’s lunchbox, you are helping them to stay hydrated throughout the school day.
Dehydration affects the digestive system and continuous low water intake leads to constipation and the build-up of toxins in the body, and this in turn increases a child’s risk of developing more complicated digestive issues.
#2. Say High to Fibre!
Research shows that most children do not eat enough fibre in their diet. Fibre, especially insoluble fibre, helps maintain the ‘friendly’ bowel bacteria that are important to maintain a healthy digestive system, bowel regularity, and relieve or prevent constipation.
Ensure you pack your child’s lunchbox with fibre rich foods, including pears and apples (skin on), berries, seeds and whole-grain breads.
#3. Raw Vegetables
We all know that raw vegetables are higher in nutrients. Add raw veggies to the lunchbox and include a dip such as hummus, which is good for the digestive system.
For variety, try replacing the chickpeas with black beans, broad beans, lentils or soaked nuts like cashews. Or create a white bean dip by blending a tin of cannellini beans, garlic clove, chopped mint, chopped chives, chopped thyme with some olive oil.
Include (hide) some raw leafy greens in your hummus too, which will increase the live enzymes in their diet and go towards your child’s daily fruit and veg allowance.
#4. Have a (Protein) Ball!
Make an energy boosting protein ball by combining dried fruit with nuts and peanut butter in your blender. Dust with cocoa powder for a highly nutritious snack that is low in fat and high in energy boosting ingredients.
A probiotic supplement can also help support a healthy gut in your children. Be careful though, not all supplements are equal and only a handful are supported by sound clinical evidence.
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Have your say! Do you have any tips for keeping your child’s school lunches healthy and easier on their tummy? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!