Adelaide-based dietitian, health professional, and Quick. Easy. Healthy. cookbook co-author Themis Chryssidis (pictured) dedicates his life to helping South Australians improve their health.
He is a firm believer that healthy eating needn’t be boring or expensive.
“There are a few key considerations,” he said. “I cluster them in concepts; colour, texture, seasons, temperature and consideration of allergies.”
Just because food is in a packet doesn’t mean it has no nutritional value. “Think of popcorn and some fruit. Convenience is okay, so long as you read the food label,” Themis said.
“Look for foods that have more than three or four grams of fibre per 100 grams, also have some protein, some healthy fats, and have less than three grams of saturated fat, and less than about 180 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams.”
In 2011, Themis co-founded Sprout Cooking School and Health Studio which provides cooking classes for adults, children and individuals with intellectual and/or physical disabilities.
Themis shares his top tips for healthy lunchboxes.
Colour – Make sure there’s a couple of pieces of fruit presented differently; whole, diced, sliced, cut into shapes or maybe mixed in with some yoghurt. The colours of vegetables are really closely associated with the antioxidants and other nutrients in them so a range of different coloured veggies, whether it’s cucumber, capsicum or carrot is great, too. They could be in a salad, a sandwich or vegetable sticks to dip in something nutritious.
Texture – A lot of kids have textual preferences so take time to understand what your child prefers, whether it’s crunchy, soft, or minced. You can adjust the texture of fruit and veg by serving them raw or cooking them. Fruit is especially good stewed; make a compote and add a little cinnamon, star anise or vanilla to add a bit of flavour.
Seasons – Unlike many other commod-ities in the world, the price of food isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality. There’s an abundance of fruit and vegetables when they’re in season so the price should go lower. At the same time, fruit and vegetables that are in season are much more nutritious and tastier.
Temperature – This refers to food-safe items in terms of what you can have in your lunchbox for a long period of time. If you are going to run the temperature gauntlet, make sure the items that have to be eaten sooner rather than later are specified for the first ‘brain break’ – or early recess, rather than later in the day. Also, use ice packs or refrigerator-type lunch bags. Let’s not also forget about those phenomenal drink bottles that keep food and beverages hot or cold for a very long time, a bit like a thermos.
Allergy considerations – Most schools will have very clear rules in terms of what you can and can’t pack. It’s really important for parents to abide by those rules. Nuts and sesame seeds are generally a no-go. Check with the school. If you’re the parent of a child with an allergy, I know you’d be very grateful if other parents respected what could be life threatening requirements.
Sprout also offers cooking classes at schools and childcare centres upon request.