Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

The dog’s barking; you haven’t quite finished dressing for that all-important morning meeting; your youngest has lost his toothbrush down the toilet and you still haven’t packed their (never mind healthy) lunchbox for school – nevermind your own! Aargh!

Sound all too familiar? Well, I can’t help with the dog, getting you dressed in time, or the toothbrush issue. I can help in the lunchbox department may help you hang onto your sanity a little longer…

What did you pack?

So, let’s say you’ve packed your little guy a sarmie, a Melrose triangle, a juice and an apple?  Doesn’t this combination provide the carbs he needs to tear about on the playground; the fat he requires for brain development (he is, after all, a mini Einstein) and the protein needed for building muscles, bones, hormones and other important bodily parts? This sounds like a perfectly healthy lunchbox, doesn’t it?  Erm, no actually. It doesn’t.

Let’s deconstruct

To be specific, what this meal does provide is a processed grain, in the form of bread. Bread undoubtedly containing soya flour which has the potential to cause digestive and hormonal problems.  This breaks down into simple sugars in the bloodstream extraordinarily quickly, leading to high insulin levels. It’s messy business, high insulin levels – try inability to focus, emotional highs and lows, potential for diabetes and more. The cheese, being a processed one, offers a very low quality and quantity of protein. Then the juice (also processed) is pretty much a sugar injection (essentially like any fizzy drink in terms of quantities of sugar).  How about the apple, you say? Well, it’s been suggested that fruits these days are significantly sweeter (perhaps as much as 50 times) than they used to be a few hundred years ago. This leads to hiking blood sugar levels on top of the already high levels caused by the sandwich. Aargh, again!

But hey – it’s not all doom and gloom. It is perfectly possible to get junior what he needs in his lunchbox, without compromising your cool-parent status, or losing your child’s faith in your food choices.

Let’s reconstruct

How about the following? A ciabatta sandwich (made from stoneground – aka – wholegrain flour). Thop this with thick butter and either chicken, tuna, or shaved biltong and a little avocado or mayo to glue it all together? How about a pile of droewors, biltong, a big chunk of cheese or a couple of boiled eggs on the side? Need more? A little container filled with Greek double-thick yoghurt, mixed with berries and crushed nuts, cinnamon and raw honey… Yum.

Essentially, what you really want to do in a lunchbox is provide tasty foods that offer high quality nutrients.

  • Protein – meats, dairy or nuts/seeds
  • Fats – butter, coconut fat, cold-pressed olive and other liquid oils
  • Low sugar-releasing carbohydrates – veggies and salad stuff

There are so many things you can do with these basic food groups, but it requires a little thought to get the creative juices going.  That, or – ahem – getting someone else to do it for you; someone who has a special interest in improving the health and happiness of every little body in this city.  I might just know such a person.  A person who just happens to have developed a healthy lunchbox recipe booklet recently…