Parents are being encouraged to keep their children’s lunchboxes nutritious as they prepare for a return to school from holidays across the South West.

South West Hospital and Health Service Community Nutritionist Rohan Ballon said the Health of Queenslanders 2018 report released last year showed clearly that obesity was a major problem throughout the state.

“According to the report, around 31 per cent of children in the South West are now overweight or obese, higher than the state average of 26 per cent,’’ Mr Ballon said.

“Although the causes of obesity are complex, poor nutrition can be a significant factor.

“Queensland children and adults, including in the South West, are choosing foods and drinks that are highly processed, energy–dense and nutrient–poor, instead of the nutrient-rich five food groups from healthy food sources and necessary for a long and healthy life.

“Across the state, and the situation is no different in the South West, only 0.6 per cent of school-aged children met the recommendation for daily vegetable intake from healthy foods.

“Among 14–18-year-olds, almost one half (45 per cent) of daily total energy intake was from unhealthy foods.’’

Mr Ballon said good nutrition could help children to build healthy bodies and minds.

‘‘A nutritious lunchbox helps children stay alert in class, be energetic all day, maintain a healthy weight and fight infections,’’ he said.

‘‘Children have periods of fast growth and are generally very active, which means that their nutritional needs are high.

“However, children don’t always know what food is best for them and need to be guided.

‘‘We learn our eating habits at a young age so packing a healthy lunchbox can help give children the best start in life.’’

Mr Ballon said healthy eating meant choosing a wide variety of foods every day from the five food
groups in the Australian Dietary Guidelines:

  •  Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain e.g. breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
  • Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs and seeds and legumes/beans
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)

“For a healthy lunchbox, you should pick and mix something from each food group plus water,’’ Mr Ballon said.

“Packing a lunchbox with real food can be as simple as including a sandwich or wrap, raw carrot, a piece of fruit and a tub of yoghurt.

“But be sure to keep dairy foods cool to avoid the Queensland heat and food-borne illnesses.

“Simple ways to do this may include freezing your custard, yoghurt or popper or by adding a frozen water bottle or frozen fruit, such as frozen grapes.’’

Mr Ballon said children should be involved in helping to decide what to pack for lunch and morning and afternoon breaks.

“This builds their skills and sense of independence, increases their knowledge of both healthy eating and food safety and is an opportunity to spend time together in an increasingly busy world.

“Packing a lunchbox should take no more than 10 minutes and your children are more likely to eat the food they’ve helped choose and prepare!”

“Trust your child and follow the cues of what they are eating and what is returning home untouched.

“Maintaining variety, for instance, is important to avoid monotony and the return of uneaten food.

“The key is to be as creative as possible in food combination to achieve an interesting presentation in the lunchbox.’’

For further information contact:

James Guthrie

Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld Media and Communication

Department of Health, (07) 3708 5379, Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au