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Keeping lunch boxes healthy

IN these tougher economic times we're all a little more careful with our cash and an easy way to save is to make clever choices at lunchtime.

More and more, people are bringing lunch boxes to work with them and the good news is that homemade lunches are generally healthier than shop bought options. Kids' lunch boxes can also be challenging for mums keen to balance taste, health and variety on a daily basis. Here are my top tips for keeping lunch boxes nutritionally balanced for you and the kids.

The ideal lunch box will include the following elements:

* A portion of complex carbohydrates – Add some variety to your diet by trying a different complex carbohydrate each day, such as a wholegrain roll, wraps, pitta pockets, pasta or rice. Choose a low fat spread, such as Flora, for sandwiches as this is an easy way to reduce your saturated fat intake.

Also, choose a complex carbohydrate that has more than 3g of fibre per 100g. This is an easy way to boost your fibre intake.

* A protein rich food – This could be lean meat, eg. chicken, or fish, eggs or non-dairy sources such as beans or houmous.

* Plenty of fruit and vegetables – Ideal lunch box choices include apples, satsumas, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, a small box of fruit salad or a small box of raisins.

* A dairy food – Cheese, yoghurt and milk are all good sources of calcium. Vegetarians could also opt for the soya variety.

* A drink – Water is the best choice. But to add a little flavour, a small fruit drink, milk or a yoghurt drink are also good options.

There's a delicious Savoury Scone recipe on page 37, which are ideal for lunch boxes for you and the kids; why not give them a go!