Registered dietitian Monique Piderit unpacks how to make lunchboxes more fun and interesting.

How parents can make healthy lunchboxes but not boring?

We eat with our eyes after all, so mix it up. Presentation, it seems, is really important to kids. Food can be arranged into shapes, stacked into towers, or cut up with cookie cutters.

Give them what they like, but within reason. There’s no point in forcing a child to eat something they don’t want to; it’ll only create anxiety for both of you. Yes, variety is important, but don’t put the focus on foods they don’t enjoy. If the only vegetable your kid will eat is cauliflower – great! Give it to them, while slowly introducing new tastes and textures.

How to deal with a picky eater?

Kid’s need some control over what goes into their bodies. Let them join you on a grocery trip and let them have some say in the pantry and fridge staples, with some limits of course. There’s a sense of responsibility and ownership that comes with choosing their favourite fruit and vegetables.  Although children love spending time in the sweets aisle, choose to spend more time visiting the fruit, vegetable and dairy aisles with interesting and engaging conversations around the types of food and products found there.

Involve them: Take it a step further and let them plan a meal for the week, or, if they’re old enough, cook it, or build it. You can set out the ingredients for stews, pasta dishes, wraps or pizzas, and let their little fingers decide how many vegetables, avocado, lettuce, cheese, yoghurt and other healthy toppings they want to add.

Make fun healthy treats: Many parents feel guilty when they let their kids indulge, but let’s face it, kids love treats. As adults we don’t eat a perfect diet 100% of the time, so there’s no reason to expect your kids to. Forbidding certain foods just makes them more tempting, and more likely to binge at the next birthday party. To ease your conscience, offer treats with some nutritional value - yoghurt ice lollies, and cheese and biscuits, are good sources of protein and calcium. Fruit like strawberries dusted with cocoa powder or cinnamon sprinkled over orange wedges is also a lovely treat.

What should one try to keep a balanced healthy lunch box?

A balanced lunchbox means that you choose foods from each of the food groups when putting together a lunchbox. Choose from each of these foods groups when making your lunches. Think of it like an equation: healthy lunch box = healthy starch + lean protein or dairy + healthy fat + fruit + veg.

Healthy starch: wholegrain/rye bread, wholewheat pasta, sweet potato, baby potatoes and corn.

Protein: skinless chicken, lean meat, lean mince, cheese, yoghurt, milk, beans, eggs.

Healthy fat: assorted nuts, peanut butter, avos.

Fruit: apples, bananas, grapes, oranges etc.

Vegetables: finger veg, veg in salads, slices of lettuce/tomato/cucumber on sandwiches, wraps bulked up with salad greens, grated carrot, etc.

Every parent has the best intention, and is doing the right thing by taking steps to make healthy eating happen in their home. The South African Yoghurt In Nutrition Initiative  have launched a 1 Million Moms Pledge for Healthy Change campaign, centred on simple solutions to help moms achieve better nutrition for their families. The Pledge can be found at @KnowYourYoghurt Facebook page.