Nutrition and health is something that all parents are concerned about for their child, especially here in the Gulf where diabetes – particularly in the young – is so prevalent.

Cooking and eating healthy, nutritious food plays a large part in the daily experience of all parents, from menu planning, shopping for organic ingredients, and using healthy methods of cooking.

Snack time at school is always one that has many challenges. Parents want their child to eat a healthy snack, but suspect that what they are more likely to eat (and therefore not be hungry throughout the morning) might not always the healthiest option. Putting in new foods for your child to try may also be stressful, as most children hesitate before trying new foods.

Allergies and guidelines

Putting a balanced snack together, on a daily basis, that is both nutritious and delicious, can be extremely challenging. And when you also take into account the needs of children with food allergies, suddenly the simple snack box can turn into a nightmare of planning and preparation.

When your child starts school, be sure to ask if they have any food guides for snack boxes. Most schools will offer suggestions, and some schools publish a guide for snacks each day that you can follow. Some provide a healthy snack themselves, removing the stress, unless your child has a particular dietary requirement.

Soft drinks cannot be purchased on campus, and schools in Dubai, for instance, are nut-free, which also means any nut/ chocolate spreads should not be sent.

Don’t share snacks

Carton drinks, both juice- and milk-based, are usually very high in sugar and fats (the top two ingredients on a label tell you the most prevalent items inside) and should be carefully chosen for nutritional value, rather than popularity.

In most schools children are not allowed so share snacks in case a child has an undiagnosed allergy that could be triggered by strange food. Be aware of the policies of the school and follow up with the teacher if you feel you are unclear about what they expect to be sent in the snack box.

A healthy snack at school is something every teacher looks out for and, working in international schools, one of the joys every day is seeing which international treats are hidden inside. The traditional snack of sandwich, yogurt and fruit are often replaced with sushi, dim sum and pickled or fermented vegetables. An amazing array of healthy treats!

Collective recipe bank

I often suggest that parents get together to collect a recipe bank of snack box foods that can be shared. Household helpers can also have some great recipes for snacks and treats.

When it comes to food your child loves to eat at school, it will generally be something that they love to eat at home – so try to ‘internationalize’ your evening meals together and encourage trying new and wonderful foods.

Being open to trying new things, and encouraging a healthy diet at the same time is something we can all work together to promote.  Don’t forget, everyone wants to be known as the mum or dad who makes the best snack!

Vanessa is Co-ordinator for Foundation Years at Hartland International School. She is an early childhood specialist who has worked in the UK and overseas for 24 years. She passionately believes that children learn best through exploration and sharing the joy of learning with significant others. Her experiences with a range of pedagogical approaches, in different settings and with a range of international teachers, gives her a diverse range of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECEC) to draw upon when establishing the Foundation Stage program.