08 February 2007

Planning healthy snacks

In this article, DietDoc gives practical tips on how to use her healthy snack and lunch box ideas to make your life easier and your children’s diets healthier.

In this article, DietDoc gives practical tips on how to use her healthy snack and lunch box ideas to make your life easier and your children’s diets healthier.

The provision of healthy food always takes planning. “But I don’t have time to plan and buy all these items!” is a familiar refrain. If you are serious about providing your children with wholesome food, the little bit of time required for planning weekly purchases for snacks and lunch boxes will be worth it in the end. And remember the process gets easier with practice.

How to use the snack and lunch box suggestions

1) Print out the article on snack and lunch box suggestions
and store them in a flip file to keep them clean
2) Buy ruled paper with blocks such as graph paper or a maths exercise book
3) Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and the list of suggestions
4) Write the days of the week in the first column (Monday to Friday)
5) Select one item from the cereal/bread group for each day of the week and write it in the second column
6) Select an item from each of the food groups for each day and write them into columns 3 to 6

Now you have your week’s menu for healthy snacks and lunch boxes.


Day Bread group Protein group Milk/Dairy group Fruit/Veg group Fats/Oils group
Monday Wholewheat bread (2-4 slices) Boiled egg mashed with chutney Strawberry yoghurt (low fat)* Naartjie, lettuce for sandwiches Margarine (Lite)*
Tuesday Pita pockets (1-2) Chopped cooked chicken Chocolate Yogi-sip (low fat)* Apple, lettuce, tomato, cucumber for pita filling Mayonnaise (low fat dressing)*
Wednesday Cheese muffins (1-2) Grated cheese Lime-flavoured milk (low fat)* Pear Margarine (Lite)* Peanuts
Thursday Provitas (4-6) Biltong Cottage cheese with chopped gherkins Fruit juice
Carrot sticks
Margarine (Lite)*
Friday Wholewheat hamburger bun (1-2) Tuna Mixed fruit yoghurt (low fat)* Dried apricots, lettuce for bun Margarine (Lite)*
Mayonnaise (low fat dressing)*


  • The portion sizes, such as 1-2 hamburger buns with filling, differ for children of different ages. For example, a young child may only require one hamburger bun, while a teenager who participates in sport may need two or even three buns to eat at first break, second break and in the afternoon before training sessions.
  • The items marked with * are suggestions for children with weight problems.
  • For very active, thin children you may have to add additional high-energy foods, such as dried fruit, nuts, energy bars and energy drinks.

The shopping list
Part of your planning is to ensure that you have the necessary food and drinks available to prepare these snacks and lunch boxes. After compiling the menu, compile your shopping list. For the above-mentioned menu you would have to buy the following foods:

a) Buy weekly or even monthly
Freezer - Frozen pita bread, chicken (cook as a main meal and keep some of the meat for making sandwich fillings)

Fridge - eggs, Cheddar or Gouda cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt (buy packs of six mixed flavours), Yogi-sip, flavoured milk, fruit juice, margarine, mayonnaise or low-fat salad dressing, gherkins, energy drinks

Cupboard - Provita packets, canned tuna, biltong, peanuts, dried fruit, chutney, energy bars, dry ingredients for baking muffins (flour, baking powder)

b) Buy weekly or daily:
Fridge - naartjies, apples, pear, carrots, tomato, lettuce, cucumber

Bread bin - wholewheat bread, hamburger buns

Items that must be made ahead of time: cheese muffins, grated cheese, chopped chicken

Remember that you can make the entire lunch box the night before and store it in the fridge - just seal foods with strong smells, such as the tuna mix in sealed Tupperware containers or Ziplock bags.

Once you have gotten used to organising your food purchases and planning ahead, the daily challenge of providing children with healthy snacks should no longer be a nightmare.

The rest of the family can also benefit
These tips can also be applied to making packed lunches for husbands and older children who need to take food to work. It is a much healthier and cheaper option to pack lunches for working members of the family than to have them buy high-fat, expensive foods at the local shop or from vendors who sell food in the working environment.

So let the entire family benefit from the bit of time you spend on planning and purchasing healthy snack food. – (Dr I.V. van Heerden, DietDoc)

Any questions? Ask DietDoc


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