WITH school back this week, mums and dads are once again in the kitchen prepping school lunchboxes – but what goes inside has always caused debate.

Now, an expert has weighed in and explains EXACTLY what you should include, and how to make sure your little ones eat it all up.

Rebecca Gawthorne, 31, a dietitian from Sydney, said a good lunchbox is all about variation[/caption]

Rebecca Gawthorne, 31, a dietitian from Sydney, said while a good lunchbox is all about variation, there are five key food groups you must always cover – so how does yours compare?

1. Vegetables and legumes

While it might be tricky to get your kids to enjoy eating veggies, the healthy foodie explained that it’s important to include some in their midday meal.

She said: “Vegetables and legumes provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients to ensure that long-term health and immunity is maintained.”

The mum-of-one provided and example of what she claims is the perfect packed lunch[/caption]

Carrot and cucumber sticks are among some of her favourite lunchbox treats, as well as hummus, cherry tomatoes and corn on the cob.

2. Lean meats and protein 

Protein helps our little ones stay fuller for longer, meaning they’re less likely to reach for a sugary snack come lunch time.

For this reason, the mum-of-one says it’s important to include plenty of protein, and something like a tuna pasta salad, or some chicken breast works well.

She said: “Eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry and fish provide an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, particularly iron needed for concentration, and protein to build, maintain and repair body tissues, muscles and organs.”

Rebecca says protein makes us stay fuller for longer so always include some in your kids’ lunches[/caption]

Tips on how to make your kids eat all thier food

For fussy eaters, Rebecca suggests buying a ‘compartmentalised lunchbox’, or a bento style box, to make room for colour, variety and abundance.

Getting your kids involved in preparing their food, and taking them shopping with you can also help.

“By allowing your kids to pick and choose their favourite healthy foods to include in their lunches, this will maximise their chances of consuming something they love,” she said. 

Rebecca added that while it can be hard, it’s a good idea to mix up what you pack as much as possible – as children can get bored easily if they get too used to something. 

A good idea is to mix up colours, textures and flavours so there is always something exciting for them to try when they eat their lunch.  

3. Grains or cereal foods

It’s common to include a tasty treat for your kids, such as cookies, cake or biscuits.

But Rebecca said to swap these traditional refined foods for healthier options like wholemeal pasta, brown or multigrain bread, brown rice and wraps.

But you don’t have to skip the sweet treat altogether as the expert suggests making a batch of healthy apricot and coconut balls, or something similar.

Include a wide range of food groups in every packed lunch[/caption]

4. Fruit

Fruit can be a super fun way to make a lunchbox exciting, but it’s also super healthy too.

Rebecca said fruit is packed full of vitamins and minerals, fibre and offers an immunity boost – so you can’t go wrong with a apple or strawberries.

Plus, fruit helps curb sugar cravings too, so your kids will get the rush they need without lollies or chocolate.

5. Dairy and/or dairy alternatives

Finally, chucking in pot of Greek yoghurt or a fruit smoothie will help give your kids strong and healthy muscles and bones, Rebecca said.

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We also shared how an organised mum sparks debate after sharing photos of her kids’ packed lunches which she makes at 3am on Sunday mornings.

Plus organised mums share how they’ve breezed through back-to-school panic with labelling and lunchbox prep.

And a mum-of-two shares how she feeds her whole family for just £47 a month – and the recipes are so easy.

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