Packing a healthy lunchbox can help your child have the right balance of energy, concentration, and nutrition to get through their school days.
The Australian Asthma Handbook encourages healthy eating for all patients with asthma. There is emerging evidence that some healthy eating habits may also help with lung health such as:
- eating plenty of fruit and vegetables every day
- minimising intake of processed and take-away foods that are high in saturated fats.
So, what makes a healthy lunchbox for growing kids?
Here’s what you need to know about packing a healthy lunch for your child with asthma.
Balance is important for your child’s lunchbox
What goes into your child’s lunchbox has a big impact on their overall nutrition for the day.
Australia’s authority on food and diet, Nutrition Australia says up to 30 per cent of a child’s food and drinks come from the lunchbox, so what goes into your child’s lunchbox really does matter for their overall diet.
Healthy Lunchbox Week (7-13 February) is aimed at encouraging parents and carers to opt for healthy, fresh food choices to fuel your child’s day.
Accredited Practising Dietitian Leanne Elliston from Nutrition Australia says a great lunchbox includes foods from each of the five food groups of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat and alternatives.
“It’s about getting the balance right in lunchboxes,” she says.
“It’s also about trying to minimise discretionary foods that often make up a part of lunchboxes. A lot of packaged foods that are promoted for lunchboxes can be very high in sugar, salt and fat, which is not great for children’s health.
“It’s about healthier swaps.”
A healthy diet and asthma
There is emerging evidence a healthy diet full of fresh foods and lean proteins can help lung health.
The National Asthma Councils Australian Asthma Handbook, points to studies where a diet of leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains can show a lower risk of wheeze in children.
Also, more processed foods can increase the body’s inflammation response, which can impact some people’s asthma.
Ms Elliston says highly refined foods and high sugar foods can damage the body’s cells.
“A lot of those highly processed foods can have inflammatory effects on the body,” she says. “That’s going to affect your lung health as well.
What about dairy and asthma
Some people say asthma can be triggered by dairy foods, such as milk, yoghurt and cheeses.
A more common condition is dairy allergy says Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy.
“When they are allergic there is a risk of breathing difficulties and a skin reaction, but they will have been diagnosed by an immunologist,” Ms Elliston says.
“There are some children who do have allergies to dairy. Usually those allergies are grown out of by the time children hit about school age.
“It’s not very common to see an actual allergic reaction to dairy at primary school age.”
If you think your child’s asthma is affected by dairy, it’s important to visit your doctor who can refer you to an immunologist for testing.
If the test does not show an allergic response but you still think something is impacting their asthma, a dietitian can help with a monitored elimination diet.
“We do see children and adults with food intolerances, it can exacerbate their asthma and cause breathing difficulties,” Ms Elliston says.
“An elimination diet is the process to go through to determine if there are any foods that exacerbate or contribute to asthma.”
Ms Elliston also says it’s important to maintain dairy in a child’s diet so they can get enough calcium and protein, plus other nutrients.
“If they cut out dairy, they’re risking not getting those nutrients that their bodies need,” she says.
For more information on food being an asthma trigger click here.
To speak with one of our Asthma Educators, call 1800 ASTHMA 1800 278 462.
Bird Healthcare and Flo are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this web page/content.