The Easy Ratio That’ll Make A Perfectly Balanced Kids Lunch

Packing a nutritionally balanced lunch that your kids will actually eat can sometimes feel like a crapshoot – the second you think you have your lunch game on lock, that’s the day they’ll come home with the elaborate bento box you packed them still intact.

As parents, we feel responsible for our kids’ health and that understandably translates into a lot of stress over what they’re eating or not eating.

“Your job as a parent is to offer healthy, nutritious foods as often as possible, on a consistent schedule,” said Aubrey Phelps, a functional perinatal and paediatric nutritionist. “But it’s up to your child to decide what to do with them.”

The best way to grow a happy, healthy eater is to keep offering what you’d ideally want your child to eat – and don’t take it personally if they choose not to eat it. When it comes to school lunches, Phelps recommends keeping it simple: “Focusing on specific vitamins or minerals can miss the big picture,” she said.

If you use the following macronutrient formula to pack your kids’ lunch and vary the sources of each, you’re almost guaranteed to have a healthy, balanced meal that will keep them focused and energised at school.

The Formula

50% veggies and fruit

25% lean protein and healthy fats

25% starch or whole grains

+ fluids

The ideal school lunch formula is often referred to as the plate method – a visual representation of what a well-rounded meal looks like.

“Every child needs a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) and vitamins and minerals,” Nicole Avena, a New York-based health psychologist and author of What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler told HuffPost. “The plate method helps ensure that no one nutrient is overpowering the rest.”

If your child has a lunch that’s mostly carbs or whole grains and some protein, for instance, they’ll likely feel tired in the afternoon. Carbs not only make you sleepy due to their ability to increase tryptophan and serotonin levels in the body (both of which are sleep-inducing compounds), but they can quickly raise your blood sugar, and the subsequent drop can leave you feeling tired, Avena said. Even a larger portion of protein and smaller amount of carbs can make your child sleepy.

“Proteins and fats are often more difficult to digest than carbs and nutrients that come from fruits and vegetables,” Avena said. “This can potentially lead to fatigue, since your body needs to use up more energy during digestion.”

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