By Louise Keats, nutritionist and mum-of-two

It’s that time of year again. The kids are back to school and parents are working hard to fill their lunchboxes with healthy and nutritious options.

After such a tough year, jumping back into some form of regular routine can be challenging for us all, so I want to share some tips that have helped me.

A silver lining of the last year for me was that I could be home more to get organised in my kitchen – I became much more prepared with my own shopping and in turn, this had a major impact on how I prepared meals for my kids.

Certainly it was the year that showed us all just how important locally sourced or home-grown produce is for our health, the importance of reliable kitchen appliances and also how educating our children on the value of cooking at home can become a lifelong gift – especially in times of crisis.

How to master the art of lunchbox prep…

1. Keep it simple

Healthy options don’t have to be complicated – cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers, strawberries – they are all zero prep and can just be tossed into a lunchbox.

If your child likes sandwiches, use the best bread you can (I personally like a wholemeal spelt bread) and with some hummus or cheese, you have a lunch in moments.

If you have boiled eggs for breakfast, pop an extra one on for your child’s lunch. Eggs offer a serving of protein and a nutrient boost, so I love to add one to my daughter’s lunchbox.

2. Keep it nude

I also wholeheartedly support schools with a “nude food” policy, which requires recess and lunch to be out of packets. Not only does it reduce litter in the playground but keeping packaging out of the lunchbox prevents children from comparing snack brands and then bringing their pester power home to their parents.

Mum-of-two and nutritionist, Louise Keats is a fan of school with a “nude food” policy.

3. Keep it fun

My children love to bake so I often include it in their weekend activities as a way of helping me to get organised for the week ahead. We will make banana bread or fruit muffins using plenty of eggs, ground seeds, extra virgin olive oil, yoghurt, spelt flour – plus whatever fruit needs using up.

They think it’s great fun, but I love that I get a week’s worth of really nutritious lunchbox snacks. Bringing my kids into kitchen and having them cook with me has not only helped with my own food preparation, it’s helped me teach them the importance of nutritious food.

4. Keep it fresh

Ensuring you are storing food correctly, is just as important as buying food for the week ahead. You want to make sure your food stays fresh for as long as possible. For example, take advantage of the crisper as opposed to the shelves in your fridge for storing fresh fruits and vegetables; the crisper regulates humidity. I like to chop carrots and place them in a container of water then into the crisper.

Reliable appliances are essential to feeding your family with fresh and nutritious options. I’ve recently upgraded to the LG French Door Fridge with InstaView Door-in-Door, it’s venting system delivers equal distribution of cold air throughout the fridge, keeping food fresher for longer – and reducing my grocery shops.

Louise suggests bringing your kids in to the kitchen with you to help teach them the importance of nutrition.

Now, for the fussy eaters…

5. Be a good role model

Studies show that parents’ own food preferences are a reliable predictor of their children’s food preferences. In short, eat your veggies, the full rainbow, and your child will be more likely to do the same.

6. Be persistent

Research also shows that it can take at least 12 tastes of a particular food for a child to accept the flavour, however, most parents stop after three or four. Don’t give up! Keep putting those foods on your child’s plate even if you’re not sure they will eat them.

Give your child the chance to surprise you and remember that even seeing those foods helps to build familiarity (as does joining in with the cooking and, if you have a garden, the growing).

7. Make sure your child is hungry

It sounds obvious, but so many parents forget this in practice. Watch out for big glasses of milk and sweet afternoon snacks close to mealtimes. My kids get a bowl of green veggies when they arrive home from school instead.

8. Don’t reward food with food

If you want to use rewards, use stickers or a star chart instead – and make the focus trying foods not just clearing the plate, which can interfere with your child’s own appetite signals. Treating your child with chocolate cake for eating broccoli, will only encourage a dislike of broccoli!

For more nutrition tips, check out Louise Keats on Instagram or her website.