The Importance of Gratitude

Being grateful for all that we have in life is one of the keys to true happiness. By recognising all of the wonderful things we have to be appreciative for, rather than dwelling on the negative, often those ‘not so wonderful’ things don’t seem so bad after all. Recent studies have found that counting your blessings on a regular basis not only leads to feeling more optimistic and enjoying a greater overall satisfaction with life, it can also have some pretty amazing physical and emotional benefits.

What is gratitude?

Being grateful doesn’t imply you’ve got your rose-coloured glasses permanently on. Nor does it mean that everything is necessarily wonderful, it simply indicates that you’re aware of your blessings, appreciate the small things and acknowledge all that you do have. Being grateful shifts the lens from what is lacking or not ideal to what is already present and good.  A lot of the time we tend to take for granted everything that’s actually great in our lives and instead dwell on what we perceive is wrong, what we don’t have or what we don’t like.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.” Frederick Keonig

The benefits of being grateful

Studies have shown that being grateful can increase happiness levels by up to 25%1. The practice of being grateful, not just for a day, but as an established habit, has been linked with numerous physical and emotional benefits and as such, has been shown to improve overall quality of life. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Improves overall physical health2,4
  • Improves mental health2
  • Improves relationships and social interactions3
  • Stronger immune system1
  • Improves quality of sleep2,4
  • Enhances empathy and reduces aggression2
  • Increases self esteem2
  • Lower levels of depression1
  • Increases resilience, better able to cope with stress1
  • Improves mental alertness1
  • Higher levels of physical activity1
  • More likely to make healthier choices – less likely to smoke, eat poorly5
  • Less self-centred and materialistic3

A recent study split several hundred people into groups and all of the participants were asked to keep a daily diary, writing down unpleasant experiences in one group, pleasant in the next, and neither good nor bad specifically in the third group. The results indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher levels of energy, optimism, determination, enthusiasm, and alertness. In addition, those in the grateful group experienced less reported levels of depression and stress, exercised more regularly, made greater progress toward achieving personal goals and were more likely to help others in need.

Furthermore, research shows that those who practice gratitude are more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. 1

Ways to incorporate gratitude into your life

Incorporating more gratitude into your daily life is simple and one of the most accessible tools for improving your quality of life. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your gratitude journey.

  • Keep a gratitude journal

You’ve probably heard of keeping a gratitude journal and it’s really as simple as just jotting down a few things at the same time each day so that you establish a routine. It may seem a little strange at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it doesn’t take much thought or effort to reflect on the positives. What you’re effectively doing is training your brain to look for the positives and to start or finish your day with feelings of thanks and gratitude, rather than dwelling on the negatives.

  • Practice an ‘attitude of gratitude’

Maintaining a positive attitude takes practice and persistence. When something bad happens, it’s easy to revert to old negative patterns and internal language – “I knew something bad was going to happen”. “Why do things like this always happen to me?” You have to make a conscious effort to retrain your thinking, and when something does happen that’s not ideal, instead of focusing on the obvious negatives, find something to the thankful for. For example, if you’re driving to work and you get a flat tyre, instead of getting upset try putting a positive spin on things – “Oh well. I’m thankful that it was just a flat tyre and not something more serious - easy fixed”. And you’re moving on with your day instead of making it into a major issue. When faced with a challenging situation ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?”, “What’s good about this?” or “How can I benefit from this?”

  • Reach out

Have a think about a time when someone did something really special for you or supported you when you really needed it and you didn’t take the time to properly thank them. Take a moment to write them a note or give them a call and convey how appreciative you were. This will not only make the person receiving the thanks feel great, but you will also feel the benefits for expressing your appreciation.

  • Meal time thanks

Start a meal time tradition with your family of talking about what you were grateful for today. It could be as simple as – “I was thankful that it didn’t rain today because it was our sports day”. Once you establish a routine it will be easy to continue. Leading by example and encouraging children to be thankful from an early age will mean that they too will reap the benefits of being grateful, and set them up to be happier adults long into the future.


  5. 5.

Tips for nurturing your happy child

The most we can ask for as parents is for our children to be healthy and happy. We know what to do to ensure they are as healthy as possible, but is it enough to assume they’ll be happy kids and hope for the best, or is there more we could be doing to actively help their happiness along as well?

Any parent can successfully lay the foundation for long-lasting happiness with a little patience and perseverance. Here are some proven tips to help your child flourish.

Foster connections

It’s extremely important for kids to feel connected throughout childhood and it’s one of the true keys to happiness. Fortunately, we are able to firmly establish our child's primary and most crucial connection - to us as their parents - simply by perpetually offering our unconditional love. However providing opportunities for children to form relationships with extended family members, family friends, school teachers, neighbours, caregivers and even pets allows them to build a strong foundation of security and a sense of connectedness which promotes long lasting emotional well-being. 1

A study involving 90,000 teens, revealed that "connectedness" - the feeling of being loved, wanted, understood and acknowledged, emerged as being the biggest protector against such things as emotional distress, suicidal thoughts, smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. 1

Be a happy parent

Our moods and temperament as parents have a direct impact on our children, so it’s critical to try and be mindful of this. Research indicates that optimistic, happy children are the product of optimistic, happy homes. Conversely, children whose parents are depressed are more likely to suffer with twice the average rate of depression.1

Tending to your own emotional well-being is one of the best things you can do for you and your child. Be sure to take time out for a break and relax, spend time with your friends and partner and keep up your hobbies. The happier you are, the happier your children will be. That’s not to say you have to be ‘walking on sunshine’ every minute of the day – it’s normal to have bad moods and to react to challenging situations, but if you can show your child that you can find the silver lining out of a difficult situation instead of reacting badly you’ll teach him how to positively tackle adversity.

Practice emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or ‘EQ’ can be defined as - ‘The capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’.2 Emotional intelligence is arguably the key to personal and professional success2 and is therefore an incredibly important tool.

Emotional intelligence is something we learn, it’s not something that we’re born with. Assuming kids will automatically make sense of their emotions, and those of others, isn’t always the best course of action. Sometimes a little help can go a long way. 3

When your child is angry or upset take some time to reflect with them. The steps are to firstly empathise with what they’re feeling – “I understand you’re upset with me – let’s talk about it.” Secondly, label the emotion they are experiencing and validate that emotion. “Are you feeling a little angry and disappointed that I didn’t let you go to your friend’s house this afternoon? I can appreciate that”. 3

By encouraging your child to label her feelings and express them verbally, you allow her to gain a whole new ability to recognise and handle her feelings contextually as well as gain a strong sense of being heard and understood.

Praise their efforts not their results

In order to be most effective, praise needs to be given in a specific way. Research consistently indicates that the most effective way to praise children is for their efforts, planning and techniques, rather than their natural ability or achievements. 3

Praising a child for scoring a winning goal is fleeting, and not something they may be able to easily replicate again. Children can become fearful that if they don’t achieve this level of success again they won’t please you or they’ll fall off the pedestal. Praise children for their hard work, their preparation and problem solving, so when they come across something tricky in the future, you can remind them how effective they’ve been at working things out previously. 4

Try not to inflate the importance of winning - when a strong emphasis is placed on

achievement above all else, children are more likely to have high levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse when compared with other children3.  Allow for their success and their failure and build their self-esteem not through their athleticism or their looks but through their hard work, persistence and drive.

Give them some responsibility

As humans, we have an innate desire to feel needed. Our happiness is dependent upon feeling that what we do is important and is valued by other people. So by letting your child know that he is making a valuable contribution to the family as early as possible, the stronger his sense of self-worth and happiness. When children are given responsibilities that help their family, classmates or team, they’re more likely to display moral behaviour and feel good about themselves. 5

Children as young as three can be given some responsibility, whether it's refilling the dog’s water bowl or sweeping the floor. Where possible, give them a role that plays to their strengths. For example, if they like to organise things, give her the job of sorting the cutlery. If he loves looking after his siblings, ask him to watch his little sister while you prepare dinner. Acknowledge that they are making a contribution to the family that is valued, and you will increase your child's confidence and feeling of connection – pre-requisites for lasting happiness. 1

Encourage an ‘attitude of gratitude’

Happiness studies consistently link feelings of gratitude to emotional well-being. Whether you are a religious family or not, the happiest families tend to actively reflect on what they’re grateful for and what’s good in their life. Just sharing with each other at dinner time what you were grateful for today encourages communication between family members but also fosters an ‘attitude of gratitude’ in children from an early age. Being grateful has been linked with numerous benefits such as improving both mental and physical health, increasing empathy and lowering levels of aggression and better sleep.

Have some good old-fashioned fun

Be sure to allow time for just having fun. Planned, extra-curricular activities are great in moderation but there needs to be a balance both scheduled activity and free time. Allowing children to just play, imagine and create helps them discover creative talents and rely on their own inner resources to have fun.



10 interesting chickpea facts

The humble little chickpea is a pretty special legume. Eaten for centuries, there’s very good reason these guys have been on the menu for so long. Here are some interesting chickpea facts you may not know about.

  1. There is strong evidence that chickpeas were first cultivated in the Middle East a staggering 7500 years BC. The popularity of the chickpea quickly spread all over the world, and they were soon grown and consumed in many ancient civilisations such as Egypt, Greece and Rome.
  2. Chickpeas are known by many different names all over the world. Other names include garbanzo beans, a popular term in the US, bengal grams, egyptian peas, ceci beans and kabuli chana. Chickpeas come in a variety of different types and colours, not just the beige variety we are used to seeing in cans. Chickpeas can also be black, green, red and brown.
  3. Chickpeas are an agricultural wonder. Not only do chickpeas produce a valuable crop but at the same time they also provide a natural organic method of breaking the disease cycle in wheat and barley crops. This means less fungicide and less insecticide, resulting in a cleaner, greener environment. Pretty amazing.
  4. Legumes are included in the Australian Government recommended eating plan for a balanced diet in two categories! Legumes and beans are categorised with both vegetables and meat, making legumes an important part of a healthy balanced diet. For more information on recommended daily servings, visit our health centre: http://local.happysnackcompany/health-centre/importance-balanced-diet/
  5. These clever little plants actually restore depleted soils and are powerful nitrogen fixing legumes. Their deep root system plays an important role in stabilising soils and preventing erosion, they may use little or no fertiliser while enhancing the fertility of the soil, and, they are a dry land agricultural crop, using no agricultural water. To add to their incredible talents, the chickpea plant even has a natural insecticide in its leaves, which keeps the bugs away. Incredible stuff!
  6. Chickpeas are a great source of both soluble and dietary fibre, important for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Soluble fibre may assist with reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream and helps maintain blood sugar levels, which may help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and also aid in managing diabetes. The dietary fibre in chickpeas and their low glycemic index (GI) may also assist with weight loss by making you feel fuller for longer.
  7. Chickpeas are an incredibly versatile ingredient to cook with. You can eat them canned, dried or roasted, hot or cold and they are inexpensive. Chickpeas can be used for making much, much more than just good old hummus. Try adding to soups instead of croutons, salads and stir frys for extra crunch, make delicious meat free patties or make a tomato chickpea stew to have with your Sunday bacon and eggs. There’s a plethora of chickpea recipes out there just waiting for you to discover.
  8. Ground chickpeas have been used as a coffee substitute since the 18th century and are still commonly used as a caffeine-free alternative today. Widely available, the taste is said to be delicious – why not give it a go!
  9. Chickpeas contain a huge number of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including folate, magnesium, vitamin b6, vitamin c, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. They are also high in protein so are a fantastic alternative to meat for vegetarians.
  10. India is the world’s number one leader in chickpea production, with a staggering 8,832,500 metric tons reportedly produced in 2013. Interestingly, the country coming in second place was Australia! With 813,300 tons produced in the same year. “Production of chickpea by countries” UN Food & Agriculture Organisation 2014.

Chickpeas for weight management

Finding a healthy, tasty snack that could actively help you lose weight and keep it off – sometimes seems impossible. While there is no perfect solution, chickpeaa could be close.

How do chickpeas help with weight management?

Chickpeas have long been linked with a wide range of health benefits, however, there are several reasons why chickpeas can help with weight management specifically.

Firstly, chickpeas are a rich source of dietary fibre. Many people believe diets high in fibre are the key to weight loss. Fibre actually slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream.
What this means is that your blood sugar levels are better stabilised instead of spiking with a huge rush of sugar, which can make you feel hungry soon after eating, leading to a higher caloric intake and potential weight gain.

Foods high in fibre are much more filling than those with low amounts of fibre, as they act as a ‘bulking agent’, resulting in you feeling fuller for longer. Not to mention that fibre helps maintain a healthy digestive system, promotes good bowel health and helps to lower cholesterol levels.

Chickpeas are also high in protein – critical to the overall growth, repair and functioning of a healthy body. Protein promotes an increase in muscle mass, which assists the body in burning fat. Protein also has the highest thermic effect, meaning the body burns more calories when processing protein than when eating any other food source and takes time to digest, curbing hunger.

Chickpeas have a very low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrate in foods, in accordance of how they affect blood glucose levels. Low GI foods are more slowly processed and metabolised, causing a much slower rise in blood sugar levels, thereby controlling appetite and reducing cravings.

Including chickpeas in your diet

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. You can, of course, buy the canned variety or they can be bought dried, roasted or ground, and eaten hot or cold. Try adding chickpeas to soups, stir-frys, curries and salads, or make delicious, healthy patties with chickpea flour. Make home-made hummus as an alternative to butter or mayonnaise, or whip up some delicious chickpea fritters with your favourite veggies.

There are so many ways to use these incredible legumes, type ‘chickpea recipes’ into your browser - get inspired and start getting the benefits today.

Or try Happy Snack Company Chic Peas and add them to your lunchbox for a mid-afternoon snack.

Healthy snacks for healthy kids.

A quick infographic we put together.


What is dairy allergy and is it affecting you?

Intolerance to dairy products is seemingly on the rise with more and more people electing to cut sources of dairy from their diet due to adverse reactions. Sufferers can experience mild to severe digestive problems after consuming foods containing milk, cheese or their by-products. So what causes the problem and how can you identify if you have a dairy allergy.

Dairy allergy vs lactose intolerance?

The terms milk or dairy allergy and lactose intolerance are often used interchangeably however they are very different and distinct conditions. A milk or dairy allergy is an actual food allergy caused by the body having an abnormal, allergic reaction to the protein in milk. The immune system essentially rejects all dairy products, so when dairy is consumed, serious allergic reactions rapidly appear which can manifest as skin rashes, stomach cramps or pain, wheezing, or in severe cases a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction. Having an allergy to dairy foods means that sufferers must always read labels on packaged foods and avoid foods that have any dairy, including the ingredients casein, whey, lactulose, lactalbumin, and ghee.

Lactose intolerance does not involve the immune system, and is caused by an entirely different disorder. Lactose is the milk sugar component present in dairy foods that is broken down by the enzyme lactase, found in the small intestine. Being lactose intolerant means that the body has a reduced ability to digest or break down these milk sugars due to having insufficient amounts of lactase in the gut. So when lactose moves through the large intestine having not been properly digested, the sugars ferment, resulting in symptoms that can include abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, gas and diarrhoea. Symptoms typically appear between half an hour and two hours of consuming the dairy product.

Lactose intolerance is more common, takes longer to develop, and can occur at any time of life. The condition generally increases with age and is therefore quite common in the elderly.

The cause of lactose intolerance can be attributed largely to genetics. Your genetic make-up can predetermine that you have less lactase than that of the average person. Other causes can include having a bout of gastroenteritis or having a parasitic infection, where your intestines can be stripped of lactase temporarily resulting in reactions to dairy foods. A lack of iron in the diet can also impede the digestive process resulting in adverse reactions.

Dairy allergy testing and diagnosis

If you believe you have a dairy allergy or intolerance it’s best to speak to your doctor, naturopath or preferred health care provider for testing and proper diagnosis. Unnecessarily removing dairy completely from your diet can be detrimental to your health as dairy products are a rich source of nutrients including calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin, magnesium and high-quality protein in addition to other important nutrients.
Testing is a fairly simple process and there are several options available:

  • Hydrogen breath test – When lactose is not digested and broken down more hydrogen gas is produced in your breath. These hydrogen levels can be tested after drinking a beverage high in lactose.
  • Stool acidity test – Levels of acid in the stool increase when lactose is undigested which can be tested with a simple stool sample.
  • Food allergy test – An allergist can test the skin or take a blood sample for laboratory allergy testing.
  • Elimination diet – All foods containing lactose are removed from the diet to see if symptoms improve or disappear. If symptoms reoccur once dairy foods are reintroduced, lactose intolerance is generally the most likely cause.
  • likely cause.
  • Milk trial – Simply changing to a lactose-free milk like almond milk as opposed to cow’s milk to see if symptoms improve.

Management of lactose intolerance

Here are some useful tips:

  • Butter and cream as well as fresh cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta have low levels of lactose so are generally well tolerated when consumed in small portions.
  • Hard and mature cheese like cheddar, Swiss and edam are also usually well tolerated and fantastic options for those that suffer with lactose intolerance.
  • Drinking full fat milk in small amounts is a better option than reduced fat milks as the fats slow the movement of the milk through the intestine, allowing more time for the lactase enzymes to break down the
  • sugars.
  • Due to increasing demand, there is now a huge range of dairy free products readily available at the local supermarket. Alternatives to cow’s milk are plentiful with options like Oat, soy, rice and almond milk.
  • If you are going to consume dairy products, do so over the course of the day with a combination of other foods so that you’re not getting a large dose of lactose all at once.
  • Be aware of your body and what it can tolerate – everyone is different.

The importance of a balanced diet.

You often hear how imperative it is to eat a healthy, balanced diet – but what exactly does a ‘balanced diet’ mean and just how important is it? What are the current recommendations for servings from each food group?

With so many different diets and eating plans espousing various claims; mountains of (often conflicting) information on what we should be eating and a plethora of opinions, it’s easy to get confused by what is one of the most simple things we do – eat. But it doesn’t need to be so complicated. Let’s get back to basics.

Getting the balance right in a balanced diet

It’s easy to think you’re eating well when in reality you may be eating too much meat, or not enough fruits or vegetables. You may struggle to get enough servings of grains or dairy in your day. Another trap is simply getting stuck in a rut and eating the same thing on repeat without realising you’re not getting your recommended serves.

Eating a well-balanced diet across all of the food groups means that you’re nourishing your body with a broad cross section of nutrients essential for the maintenance and functioning of a healthy body. These nutrients also help reduce our risk of serious health problems such as some cancers, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In order to get enough of these various nutrients, we need to eat a variety of foods from across the five food groups and be eating the recommended servings of each to achieve an ideal balance. You may think you know the recommended servings, however there are variances based on gender, age and for pregnant or breastfeeding women to be aware of, so it’s worth revisiting.

The five food groups are:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables & legumes/beans
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
  • Grains, cereal foods, mostly wholegrain
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese and or alternatives

Below are the current Australian guidelines for recommended servings from each of the food groups from the Eat for Health government website:

Recommended average daily number of serves from each of the five food groups* Additional serves for taller or more active men and women
Vegetables & legumes/beans Fruit Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat) Approx. number of additional serves from the five food groups or discretionary choices
19-50 6 2 6 3 2 ½ 0-3
51-70 5 ½ 2 6 2 ½ 2 ½ 0-2 ½
70+ 5 2 4 ½ 2 ½ 3 ½ 0-2 ½
19-50 5 2 6 2 ½ 2 ½ 0-2 ½
51-70 5 2 4 2 4 0-2 ½
70+ 5 2 3 2 4 0-2
Pregnant 5 2 8 ½ 3 ½ 2 ½ 0-2 ½
Lactating 7 ½ 2 9 2 ½ 2 ½ 0-2 ½

* Includes an allowance for unsaturated spreads or oils, nuts or seeds (4 serves [28-40g] per day for men less than 70 years of age; 2 serves [14-20g] per day for women and older men.)

For recommended serving information for children, toddlers and adolescents click here:

Serving sizes of balanced diet

How much is a standard single serving and what does that look like?

  • Fruit - approximately 150 grams or 1 medium apple, pear or orange
  • Vegetables & legumes/beans - approximately 75 grams or for example, ½ a cup of cooked broccoli, ½ a cup of cooked lentils or 1 medium tomato
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans – roughly 500 – 600 kilojoules or 2 large eggs, 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, 65 grams of cooked beef or 80 grams of cooked chicken
  • Grains, cereal foods - roughly 500 kilojoules, which is 1 slice of bread, ½ a cup of cooked pasta, a ¼ cup of muesli or 1 crumpet for example
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese and or alternatives – approximately 500 – 600 kilojoules or for example, 40 grams of hard cheese, 200 grams of yogurt or 1 cup of milk

Are you getting your recommended servings?

Here’s an example of a well-balanced diet menu for a woman aged 19-50 of average height day’s , healthy weight and light activity to help get you started:

Meal / Food Weight / portion size Food group and number of serves
Wholegrain breakfast cereal, with reduced
fat milk
60g cereal
1 cup (250ml) reduced fat milk
2 grain serves
1 milk/yoghurt/cheese serve
Reduced fat yoghurt 100g yoghurt ½ milk/yoghurt/cheese serve
Morning break
Coffee with milk 200ml (small coffee) ¼ milk/yoghurt/cheese serve
Sandwich with salad and chicken 2 slices bread
40g chicken
1 teaspoon margarine
1 cup salad vegetables
2 grain serves
½ meat and/or alternatives serve
5g unsaturated spread (½ serve)
1 vegetable serve
Apple 1 medium 1 fruit serve
Afternoon break
Unsalted nuts 30g 1 meat and/or alternatives serve
Coffee with milk 200ml (small coffee) ¼ milk/yoghurt/cheese serve
Evening meal
Pasta with beef mince and red kidney beans, tomato and green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing 1 cup of cooked pasta
65g cooked mince
¼ cup kidney beans
1½ medium tomato
½ onion
2 cups green leafy salad
2 teaspoon unsaturated oil
2 grain serves
1 meat and/or alternative serve
1½ vegetable serve
½ vegetable serve
2 vegetable serves
14g unsaturated oil (2 serves)
Evening snack
Plums and reduced fat yoghurt 1 cup stewed plums
100g yoghurt
1 fruit serve
½ milk/yogurt/cheese serve

Take the time to take a closer look at what you’re actually eating and ensure you’re getting what you need for a healthy body and a healthy life. There’s a wealth of helpful information available online if you’re looking for ideas.  Get inspired and create your new, balanced diet eating plan today!

Snacks under 100 calories.

If you’re on a calorie controlled eating plan or just like to watch what you eat, finding delicious snacks that won’t have you heading for the nearest gym can be difficult. Seemingly ‘healthy’ snack products can pack a massive calorie count equivalent to a main meal and before you know it your ‘good’ day can turn into to a terrible one pretty quickly!

However, choosing your snacks wisely can actually assist in helping to achieve weight loss goals. Having a healthy bite between meals can help keep hunger at bay, keep energy levels up by maintaining blood sugar levels, and keeps the metabolism burning. Eating the right snacks allows us to provide the body with extra nutrients and makes us feel less deprived.

Put snacks back on the menu with these guilt free, tasty ideas, all coming in under 100 calories so they’ll fit into any healthy eating plan. With varying degrees of difficulty, some sweet and some savoury options, there’s something for everyone and every craving. Happy snacking!

Savoury snack ideas under 100 calories

• ½ mixed-grain, toasted English muffin with 1 tablespoon of low fat cottage cheese, 3 slices of tomato and cracked pepper

• 20 grams of Lightly Salted Roasted Fav-va Beans

• 10 baked tortilla chips with a ¼ cup of salsa

• 1 cup of watermelon with 20 grams crumbled goats cheese and fresh mint

• 20 sultanas and 10 almonds

• 1 small green apple with 20 grams reduced fat cheddar cheese

• 2 cups of raw spinach, ½ cup of sliced strawberries and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

• 1 rice cake with 2 teaspoons of almond butter

• 1 large boiled egg

• 1 glass of red wine

• 1 cup of edamame

• 1 cup of carrot sticks with 2 tablespoons of hummus

• 1 sliced tomato with 25 grams fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves

• 1 cup of tomato soup with 1 tablespoon of shredded low fat cheese

• 1 medium celery stalk with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter

• ½ a medium baked potato with 2 tablespoons of salsa

Sweet snack ideas under 100 calories

• ½ a frozen banana dipped in 2 teaspoons of melted dark chocolate

• ½ cup of pineapple with 1 ½ teaspoons of shredded coconut

• 20 grams of good quality dark chocolate

• ½ cup fat free plain yogurt with half a cup of fresh raspberries

• 1 cup of skim milk with a teaspoon of milo

• 8 almonds, half a tablespoon of chocolate chips and one tablespoon of raisins

• ½ a cup of No Fat Greek Yogurt with a teaspoon of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon

• 2 level scoops of low fat, plain ice cream with a ¼ cup of blueberries

• 1 slice toasted fruit bread with a cup of peppermint tea

**Product calorie counts vary so always read the label.

How to build a balanced lunch box.

We all know the importance of a healthy lunch for our kids and creating a balanced lunch box, but how do you know you’re packing the right combination of foods to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need? What you pack for school makes up to one-third of all of their nutritional requirements in a day, so getting it right is important for helping them to concentrate, learn more and have lots of energy throughout the day. Teaching kids to eat a nutritious, balanced diet will foster positive eating habits and set them up for better health outcomes in adulthood. But even the healthiest of lunches won’t provide any nutritional value if it gets thrown in the bin, so finding tasty options that are good for them is key.

Where to start?

The overarching goal of a balanced lunch box is to provide foods from each of the five food groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Protein
  • Wholegrains
  • Dairy

A good way to build a lunchbox is to start with the main or core item, like a sandwich, wrap or serving of pasta, then add your building blocks of fruit and nutritious snacks, always keeping the five food groups in mind. How much you pack will depend on your child’s activity levels and the length of their day.

As your core item, sandwiches are a staple in most lunch boxes but keep it interesting with different fillings they’ll be excited about eating. Make sure bread is wholegrain as this will provide them with more sustained energy than white bread varieties. Why not try flat bread, wraps or pita bread and try cutting them into rounds or shapes for something different. Here are some fresh sandwich ideas:

  • Grated cheese, pineapple, lettuce and grated carrot
  • Curried Egg and rocket
  • Tuna, cottage cheese, cucumber and baby spinach
  • Chicken, mustard mayo, celery and lettuce
  • Ham, pesto, cheese and lettuce

Water makes the best drink as kids don’t need sugary cordials, juices or soft drinks which can lead to tooth decay if drunk in excess. Always pack a bottle of water every day. Freezing a bottle of water and putting in their lunchbox will ensure they have cold water all day in the hotter months, as well as keeping food cool. You may choose to pack a small reduced fat milk drink as a special treat once a week.

Examples of a balanced lunch box

Some examples of a balanced lunchbox might be:

  • A wholegrain sandwich filled with grated carrot, cucumber, lettuce and tomato; bite-sized pieces of watermelon; a boiled egg and a tub of yogurt.
  • Ham and corn frittata with a salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, a banana, cubes of cheddar cheese with wholegrain crackers and a pack of Kids Pizza flavour Fav-va beans.
  • Chicken and capsicum pesto pasta, an apple, vegetable sticks with hummus and wholegrain crackers and a tub of reduced fat custard.
  • A wholegrain wrap with grated ham, tomato, avocado and lettuce, an orange, a reduced fat chocolate milk and a packet of sultanas.
  • A wholegrain pita pocket with curried egg and rocket, a banana, a tub of yogurt and slices of celery, carrot and capsicum with dip.

Hints and tips

  • Talk to your kids! Ask them what they would like to eat and try and guide them in the direction of healthy eating. This opens the discussion around health and why it’s important to take care of yourself and your body.
  • Always check the ‘allowable’ foods policy for your child’s school and strictly adhere to the guidelines. More and more children suffer with food allergies so ensure you know exactly what’s in what you’re packing.
  • Be sure to keep lunches cool with an ice brick from the freezer or a cool, frozen drink. Bacteria quickly grows when food is not refrigerated.
  • Having your children help make and pack their lunches generally means they will be more engaged in the process and therefore more likely to eat it, so let them choose items and make their own sandwiches.
  • Prepare food ahead of time. Make some healthy muffins or a delicious frittata the night before or on the weekend and freeze for when you need them.

Variety is key. Kids will get bored with the same thing day in, day out, so try and be creative.

The importance of a healthy lunchbox.

Life is hectic. Our busy, fast paced schedules often mean there are just not enough hours in the day. Finding time to shop for, prepare and pack nutritious, appealing lunches for our kids can be a major challenge for many parents. Kids can be fussy and coming up with new and interesting foods that aren’t full of sugar that won’t get thrown in the bin can be tricky. But the importance of packing a healthy lunchbox is immeasurable. Kids are more alert and focused when they’re fuelled with healthy food. Higher levels of sustained concentration mean that kids can more readily retain information and therefore learn. What’s in their lunchbox can make up to a third of their daily nutrients and provides all of the energy they need to get through an action packed day. A lunchbox filled with sugary, fatty food doesn’t provide long lasting energy or necessary vitamins and minerals, and can be a major contributing factor in whether a child will be overweight or obese.

Tips to get them on the right path

Here are some ideas to get your kids on the path to healthy eating:

  • Pack a balanced lunchbox

Try to include all of the food groups – a piece of fresh fruit, crunchy veggie sticks, protein like egg or lean meat, a dairy option can be yogurt or cheese and a carbohydrate like bread or a wrap for example. If you’re time poor, prepare food the night before and freeze it so that it’s ready to go in the morning. Encourage children to choose items for their lunchbox so that have a sense of empowerment about what they’re eating. Praise them when they make healthy choices.

  • Get creative with adding vegetables into family meals

It’s actually quite easy to add in veggies without them even knowing. Try adding grated carrot, zucchini and celery for easy, extra veggie servings and use fresh tomatoes and herbs in sauces.

  • Encourage your kids to try new tastes and flavours

Kids can be extremely fussy, but the sooner they try new and interesting produce like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices the more likely they are to continue eating them, as kids eat what is familiar to them.

  • Cook with your kids and buy less take away meals

Make preparing and cooking meals a fun, family activity and talk about the vegetables and produce being used. With our busy, fast paced lives we are often time poor and cooking dinner is the last thing on the long list, but it’s important to try and make time to cook with real ingredients and teach kids the value of making a nutritious meal for themselves.

  • Keep unhealthy snacks out of the pantry

It’s much easier to say no when you don’t have to. By simply not buying unhealthy snacks they won’t be in the pantry and your kids won’t pester you for them – out of sight, out of mind.

  • Lead by example

Kids take their cues from us and learn by observation. If we are making unhealthy food choices and leading inactive lives they will naturally assume this to be normal behaviour. We as parents need to take responsibility for the health of our children by doing the right thing ourselves wherever possible.

  • Talk to your kids about why it’s important to eat well and treat your body well

Don’t assume your children know why they should eat a healthy, balanced diet. Educating kids on why it’s important to eat well and look after yourself is key and not just something that should be left up to teachers. The earlier kids develop a positive relationship with food the more likely they will carry it through to a healthy adulthood.