If you don’t have the kids at school right now, it can be hard to find the inspiration to pack a Yumbox for them. “What’s the point?” we hear you say. Nutritionist Rick Hay says there are a number of benefits.

Importantly, Rick says that food has a huge role to play in our immune health, which is particularly important right now.

“Children prime their immunity by having their bodies exposed to germs and viruses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help to boost it,” says Rick. “There are healthy habits you can adopt that will help your children build a strong immune system, and nutrition – particularly eating more fruits and vegetables – is a key factor.”

But beyond immunity, why should you make the effort to pack lunch even though the whole family is at home? Here are five years why.

STOPS NEEDLESS SNACKING
Most of us are totally guilty of snacking throughout the day, and kids can be the biggest culprits. But having a pre-packed lunch can reduce the urge to snack, as you’ll know that you’ve got a proper meal waiting for you at midday. Plus, it should leave you too full to snack afterwards!

“Healthy lunches are important, and not just for active children,” says Rick. “Having nutritious food available helps your children make their own healthy choices, instead of reaching for sweets or processed snacks.”

And while it isn’t a fool-proof way to fill your kids’ bottomless stomachs, it certainly helps – just ensure you’re filling each Yumbox compartment with a variety of foods and you’re golden.

HELPS YOU USE UP LEFTOVERS
Packing lunchboxes ahead of time means you can be more strategic about using what’s already in your fridge or pantry. And while this is particularly helpful when trips to the supermarket are hard and supplies are scant, it’s a good habit to get into all year ‘round.

“Stick to the Golden Rule of least five servings of fruits and veggies a day, remembering that a serving is about two tablespoons for toddlers, and one cup for older children,” says Rick. “An ideal lunch box contains fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables and a combination of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.”

If you’re lacking inspiration, take a look at the labelled tray inside your Yumbox – by filling each compartment with different food groups, you’re guaranteed a nourishing, balanced meal.

HELPS YOU STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE
When you fall out of routine, whether that’s thanks to school holidays or otherwise, it can be seriously hard to get back into the groove. Keep the calm by sticking to a regular school-term schedule even while they’re at home, and you’ll find going back to work or school infinitely easier.

Continuing to pack a lunchbox even when children are at home during quarantine can help them to stay in their usual routine and allow for more structure, as Brisbane mum Belinda D’Castro has found.

“In all of the craziness of the past few weeks, the few moments of calm have come when we’ve all been eating lunch together,” says Belinda. “It’s an opportunity to debrief with the kids about how their schoolwork is going, and helps them feel more motivated to continue their study in the afternoon – much like their usual school lunch break would.”

EASIER TO PLAN MEALS
Whether you’ve got a busy day at home or not, having a lunchbox packed in advance means dedicating time to plan not only lunch, but breakfast and dinner, too. Heck, you could even pack a few Yumbox trays ahead of time and store them in the fridge for the week! It’s never been easier to meal prep.

“Meal prepping doesn’t just save you time – it can help you save money, too,” says Rick. “Encourage your children to help choose and prepare foods for their lunchbox – let them create a list of the items they enjoy eating, and don’t forget to praise them when they choose healthy food.”

MORE TIME TO ENJOY
Finding inspiration can be a struggle when you’re under the pump, and the lunchtime rush can really take the joy out of cooking. You can thank ‘past you’ for thinking ahead and reducing the stress of feeding hungry children. Plus, when the whole family has lunch packed in advance, you can all focus on doing other, more enjoyable things before, during and after you eat.

“Meal prepping can help you reduce stress by avoiding last minute decisions about what to cook for your family or put in your child’s lunchbox,” says Rick. “Packing a lunchbox won’t just encourage them to keep choosing healthy options and improve their nutrient intake – it may even lead to better performance academically.”