Our Green Gurus

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The best school lunch


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By guest-blogger Lindy Cook from My Green Lunch Box

With the school year just beginning, it’s the perfect time to consider how to pack a healthy lunch box that ticks all the right boxes; nutritious, waste free and environmentally friendly.

Australia is the second highest producer of waste per person in the western world! Unfortunately school lunches are contributing to this, with the average lunch-toting child generating around 30 kg of litter a year. You can do your bit to reduce this by packing a school lunch without including any packaging, juice packs, plastic bottles or glad wrap. There are plenty of alternatives out there; fabulous lunch boxes with separate compartments to pop all your different lunch bits into, containers with dividers for separate snacks, reusable sandwich and snack wrap. These are all so practical, with a gorgeous array of designs and means you can say good bye to glad wrap and packaging forever, making every day a rubbish-free day!

Around a third of your child’s diet is consumed at school, so their lunch and snack need to be packed full of nutritional goodness to give them the energy and focus they need for an action packed day of learning. Unfortunately research shows that an amazing 43 per cent of Australian primary school children aren't getting the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Try to avoid the temptation of purchasing any foods in a packet. Compared to fresh foods, pre-packaged food often contains more kilojoules, fat, salt and sugar. Packing a rubbish free lunch reduces the consumption of pre-packaged, processed foods and ensures better nutrition for your child.

The addition of super foods, such as chia seeds, quinoa and yoghurt to your child’s lunch and snack is an excellent way to help ensure their nutritional demands are being met. Quinoa boasts the highest protein content of any grain and is a great one for adding to muffin mixes. Chia seeds are packed with so much nutritional goodness you could live off them almost entirely. These amazing seeds have countless health benefits including: 20 per cent protein; four times the antioxidant level of blueberries; five times more calcium than milk; seven times more Vitamin C than oranges; three times more iron than spinach; twice the potassium content of banana; eight times more omega 3 than salmon; and 15 times more magnesium than broccoli. Even better, they are completely flavourless. Talk about getting the good stuff in with minimal fuss! I add chia seeds to baking, home-made muesli bars, yoghurt and smoothies.

Water should always be the drink of choice to keep your child hydrated throughout the day. Soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice are high in sugar and are best left as an occasional treat. Try freezing drink bottles the night before a hot day, for a refreshing, cool drink the next day at school. Always send your children off to school with a reusable drink bottle, they are easily available and with the great range of kid friendly designs, there really is no excuse to buy bottled water any more. With over one billion plastic water bottles a year being thrown away in Australia and only 30 per cent recycled there is even more motivation! Around 700 million plastic water bottles end up in landfill or floating in the ocean annually. That is enough plastic water bottles to wrap around the planet 149 times each year. Australia's annual use of bottled water generated more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions - the same amount that 13,000 cars generate over a year.

So why not look at your lunch boxes again? Make a conscious decision to only include foods that leave no packaging at the end of the day. Pop the sandwich or bread roll into a reusable sandwich wrap and use small containers for any snack foods and of course, pack a reusable drink bottle. The only thing left at the end of the day should be an apple core, crusts or other left over food remnants – all good fodder for the compost to enrich our soils.

My Green Lunch Box runs an environmentally-friendly fundraising program for schools and kindergartens to promote rubbish free lunch days in schools and help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. Contact lindy@mygreenlunchbox.com.au or visit her website www.mygreenlunchbox.com.au for more information.