Back to school time means it is time to get back to packing lunch boxes, and get into the evening meal routine again. When packing a nourishing school lunch for children Danone advises parents to consider the nutrient content of their lunch box in the context of what they consume throughout the day. The Department of Health food pyramid recommends an intake of 3 to 5 servings of dairy products daily (depending on age)1, recognising dairy products as being essential to a well-balanced diet.
Adequate consumption of dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, which are rich in protein, calcium and other nutrients, is particularly important for the healthy growth and development of children and teens. Taking this into account, Danone Nutritionist, Kellie O’Connor has some advice on how to provide meals for children throughout the school week which ensures they are consuming adequate levels of dairy each week.
Kellie O’Connor says, “what parents include in their children’s lunchbox is central to not only how children perform in the classroom but also plays a major role in them meeting their daily nutrient requirements throughout their busy week. There are lots of inventive ways of incorporating dairy in the diet in a tasty way. Yoghurt is a particularly nutrient dense dairy food choice, being a source of calcium, protein and B vitamins, while coming in many varieties, and so is a very convenient and cost effective addition to kids’ lunch boxes. “
“Eating just one pot of yoghurt a day acts as one of the recommended daily portions of dairy. What many people may not realise is that yoghurt is also a great low fat ingredient for sauces and other popular dishes. Encouraging the whole family to consume three dairy servings a day isn’t difficult, it just sometimes may require a little creative meal planning.”
Kellie has some advice for incorporating nutrient dense and low fat foods in school lunch boxes and family meals to ensure children and teenagers are getting their recommended portions of dairy a day.
Healthy Lunch box Ideas from Danone
There are lots of food choices available for lunch boxes but it can be difficult to keep it interesting all the time! Try these tips:
- · Get fruity – choose fresh seasonal fruit. Try making up fruit salads with a variety of different seasonal fruits – chop it and put it in a little lunchbox for your kids so they can eat it easily
- · Mixing it up–to keep children interested in fruit try serving it different ways, such as mixing it with yoghurt or sprinkle with some pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
- · Vegetables – try vegetable sticks like cucumber, carrots or celery with small containers of dips like low-fat hummus. Alternatively make up your own dip with natural yoghurt such as Activia Natural yoghurt and add some chopped chives or spring onions for flavour. Milk, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks – these can all help to contribute to your child’s calcium and vitamin D intakes and are perfect for snacks with lunch or after school. Little pots of fromage frais such as Danone Gervais make good snacks for younger ones. The Danone Actimel 0% fat range is lower in sugar than the regular range, so a good choice if you are worried about high sugar intakes.
- · Variety – experiment with different types of bread, especially if your children begin to lose interest in sandwiches. Try seeded rolls, pitta bread, flat bread, bagels and wraps. Buy in bulk when these foods are on offer and keep them in the freezer for lunchboxes and picnics!
- · Vary the fillings – ideas for fillings include tuna with sweetcorn, egg with spring onion, salmon with cucumber, or turkey with relish. Salsa and relish make good spreads and are lower in fat than mayonnaise.
- · Hydration – Water and milk are the best drinks for children. Individual little water bottles can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool. Make sure your child always has their own water bottle with them at school, when playing sports or when travelling. Carrying water with them will constantly remind them of the importance of drinking plenty of water.
Kellie O’ Connor’s tips for cooking with yoghurt:
Yoghurt is versatile, low-fat ingredient and can be used as an effective substitute for ingredients which may be higher in fat. Before you begin swapping ingredients, read these essential tips for successful cooking with yoghurt :
- · If you cook with yoghurt, choose a natural low-fat yoghurt
- · If you are using yoghurt in a sauce (instead of cream, for example), cook it over a low heat to prevent it splitting
- · Natural yoghurt really lends itself well to recipes like meat marinades, salad dressings, dips and potato dishes.
- · Natural yoghurt works well as a substitute in baking. For example, if you are making carrot cake, replace half the oil required with low-fat natural yoghurt.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 avocado
- 2 tbsp low-fat or fat-free Activia natural yoghurt
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander , chopped (optional)
- 1 red chilli , chopped (optional)
- Juice of 1 lime
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone.
2. Spoon out the avocado flesh, and place into a small bowl.
3. Mash the avocado, and add the yoghurt, tomato, spring onion, coriander and chilli (if using).Squeeze over the lime juice and add some freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Tip: to prevent the dip from going brown, put the avocado stone into the bowl with the guacamole. Remember to remove before serving!
Nutrition information per serving : 85 calories, 1.9g protein 7.4g fat, 2.9g carbohydrate, 2g fibre. Source of Calcium & Folic Acid.
Chicken with Citrus Yoghurt Marinade
Makes 6 servings
- Zest & juice of 1 lemon
- Zest & juice of 1 orange
- 4 tbsp low-fat or fat-free Activia natural yoghurt
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 12 boneless chicken thighs
1. In a large bowl combine citrus juices and zests, yoghurt, garlic, paprika and parsley. Mix well.
2. Put the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag and pour the marinade in on top. Close the freezer bag and use your hands to distribute the marinade among the chicken.
3. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours (or overnight).
Line a baking dish with foil. Add the chicken thighs and cook at 180ᵒC for 20-25 minutes. Serve with broccoli and baby potatoes. Nutrition information per serving (without accompaniments) : 205 calories, 18.7g protein, 13.4g fat, 2.4g carbohydrate. High in Calcium & Iron. Source of Vitamin D.
Makes 4 servings
- 4 tbsp low-fat or fat-free Activia natural yogurt
- 4 boneless salmon fillets
- 20 black olives, coarsely chopped
- 15 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- Preheat oven to 180oC.
- Line a baking tin with parchment paper or tinfoil. Place the salmon fillets in the tin. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the yoghurt, olives, tomatoes, dried oregano and garlic.
- Top the salmon with the yoghurt mixture, evenly covering all of the salmon. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Serve with a green salad and some crusty wholegrain bread.
Nutrition information per serving (without accompaniments) : 220 calories, 22.8g protein, 12.2g fat, 5.1g carbohydrate. High in Calcium & Vitamin D. Source of Omega-3 & Iron.
1.Department of Health and Children 2012. Food Pyramid and Healthy Eating Guidelines for Ireland.