GIVE those tired old jam sangers an extreme makeover in your children's lunchboxes when school starts again this week.
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service paediatric dietician Justin Wright has come up with quick, creative and inexpensive ideas that are guaranteed to ensure the lunch contents don't end up in the school dustbin.
"Most of us are time poor and this can lead to parents resorting to highly processed food that can be high in added saturated fat, salt and sugar and low in vital nutrients," Mr Wright said.
"Queensland children are generally healthy, but most eat too many unhealthy 'extra' foods like chips, lollies and soft drink.
"It can be easy to forget kids need up to two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables a day.
"With a bit of planning it's easy to fill up a lunch box with healthy food and avoid less healthy highly processed food."
Mr Wright also warned eating habits were formed in early childhood, so it was important to "give your chid the best start by packing a healthy lunchbox".
"By being good role models, parents can send a powerful message to their children in regard to healthy eating."
Mr Wright said parents also needed to take some food precautions when preparing lunches and including a frozen drink or small freezer brick would help keep lunch cool
"Freeze yoghurt or milk to keep at a safe temperature and clean lunch boxes regularly" he said.
"Make sure school bags containing lunch boxes are stored in the shade and wash hands before preparing and eating food."
Sandwiches - vary the bread and fillings. Some interesting combinations are tuna, corn and sweet chilli sauce; roast vegetables, pesto and baby spinach; chicken, lettuce, grated carrot and mayonnaise; avocado, refried beans, reduced fat cheese and salsa; and baked bean and reduced fat cheese.
Mini pizza - top half a bread roll, muffin or pocket bread with tomato paste, ham, pineapple, capsicum and onion. Sprinkle with reduced fat cheese and grill until golden.
Rice salad - add chicken or lean meat, carrot, celery, pineapple or other combinations of leftover rice.
Finger salad pack - combine a selection of meat, reduced fat cheese, egg and vegetable sticks and serve with a bread roll.
Winter warmers - fill a flask with vegetable soup, spaghetti bolognaise, noodles and vegetables, or stir-fry with rice. Some schools may have a microwave to reheat food.
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