Should we be thinking outside of the box, when it comes to what goes in them?

School is back in session and a lot of Australian kids are more excited about lunch time than maths class, understandably.

…And with lunch time comes the school lunchbox, with parents likely to make around 200 lunches per child this year alone.

Leading Australian psychologists and weight loss experts, Kate Swann and Kristina Mamrot are urging parents to take extra care when preparing their children’s lunchboxes this year.

According to Kate Swann it is fundamental to teach children to eat real food in moderate amounts and allow them to say when they’ve had enough.

“If you do this from birth, then they will recognize being full. If you over feed them they will learn to override their full button and eat til they’re stuffed. That equals a weight problem,” she says.

The most recent national data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics noting the prevalence of overweight children was released in 2007-08 and estimated over one-fifth (23 per cent) of Australian children aged between five and 14 were overweight(17 per cent) or obese (6 per cent).

Kristina Mamrot says the key for parents is to find healthy eating ideas for lunchboxes that the family will enjoy, while understanding the importance of portion control.

“Lunchbox contents are a no brainer. At school, your child needs to be alert and able to concentrate.

“You can get back to basics when it comes to kid’s food, like sandwiches, cut up vegies, fruit, yoghurt and cheese.

“Parents have to ensure they provide good protein, good carbs, some fruit and if there’s room – yoghurt or similar. And water – if there’s one thing that’s vital, it’s to teach your kids to drink water.”

“Children don’t need juice – give them the whole fruit to eat rather than juice.

Katrina says if you model sitting down and eating slowly and enjoying food; then children will also.

“If children see mum and/or dad sitting down to eat breakfast, this will become the norm. Eating dinner together as often as possible is also fantastic…children will do what you do, not what you say.”

Katrina says she often hears concerns of lunchbox contents slipping from busy, stressed parents, but this can be fixed by organising and planning ahead, by making time the night before as a family to set up a sort of ‘sandwich shop’ to get all the lunchboxes sorted.

And what should you do when healthy snacks come back untouched? Katrina says don’t give up, just keep persevering!

“Keep up the healthy stuff. Ensure you aren’t going too far the other way and by that, I mean that you haven’t eliminated all of the treat foods and are insisting on healthy eating all the way.

“I find that if people are deprived of all treat foods then sooner or later they will fall off their eating plan and into the nearest block of chocolate or bag of chips. Our message is real food in moderation. And yes, that includes chocolate. What would the world be like without chocolate? I dread to think,” she says.

Kate and Kristina also say starting the lunchbox habit early is important, so children continue it through highschool as traditional school canteens can be unhealthy and expensive.

“It’s easy to get the kids to buy their lunches when you are too busy but this should not be a regular occurrence. Tuckshops often don’t serve the type of foods you would like them to, and while this can be a treat, it should not be a regular thing,” she says.

Do you find it stressful to pack a healthy and interesting lunchbox for your kids?