Updated 10 February 2013

Look to dairy for quick and healthy lunchbox treats

Tired of trying to come up with creative lunchbox ideas for the kids? Try dairy! It's easy to pack and a critical part of a healthy child’s diet.


Tired of trying to come up with creative lunchbox ideas for the kids? Try dairy! Not only are there tons of dairy products available that you can quickly and easily include in school lunches but according to the Consumer Education Project (CEP) of Milk SA, dairy is a critical part of a healthy child’s diet.

In fact, in 2012 the National Department of Health (DoH) launched the revised food based dietary guidelines – the Guidelines for Healthy Eating – which, among other things, highlighted the importance of eating dairy every day. The department actually formulated this new dietary guideline which recommends the increased intake of dairy due to the specific contribution dairy makes to the diet.

Maretha Vermaak, the CEP dietician, says daily dairy intake could reduce the current nutrient gaps in the diets of most South Africans, including those of our children, and protect against chronic diseases in future.

“The DoH’s National Food Consumption Survey (1999) revealed that most South Africans do not consume enough vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B6, B12 and C, calcium, iron and zinc. Lack in dietary variety, and low intakes of fruit and vegetables, legumes and animal-source foods like dairy were singled out as the biggest reasons for this. At the same time, South Africa has high rates of diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. In-depth investigations internationally and locally have shown that the unique composition of dairy foods helps to address both current nutrient deficiencies and the risks for developing chronic diseases,” Vermaak says.

Bone health and optimal growth

Milk is a good source of high quality protein, supplying the amino acids that the body needs to build muscles and other tissues. It is also a source of calcium, well known for its role in promoting bone health. This emphasises the importance of dairy for children and adolescents for optimal growth.

“Despite this, many South African children are stunted or short for their age. Adequate milk intake can reduce this problem, as well as significantly contribute to children’s overall vitamin A, riboflavin, zinc and vitamin B12 intakes,” Vermaak adds. “In addition, many of the minerals found in dairy can help prevent non-communicable diseases – a major risk later in life. So getting children into the habit of eating dairy products is not only beneficial now, but also important for their future health.”

The new Guidelines for Healthy Eating, which were revised in line with new scientific evidence, call for increased intakes of milk, maas and yoghurt. This is great news for moms looking for healthy, nutritious snacks to add to their children’s lunchboxes, as these products are readily available and delicious, no-fuss additions to packed lunches.

Aim for three daily servings of dairy a day. For variation, try different flavours of low- fat flavoured milk; low-fat drinking yoghurt; various yoghurts; cheese, either on its own, with crackers or in sandwiches; cream cheese and cottage cheese sandwiches; and pre-packed cheese squares or wedges.

For further information please go to

 - (Consumer Education Project of Milk SA press release)

- (Health24, February 2013)

Read more:

Healthy snack and lunchbox ideas
How much milk and dairy should we eat?
Two cups of milk enough for most kids


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