Back to School Low-Sucrose Lunchbox Guide
Paula Gallagher, MFN, RD, LD
Packing a lunchbox for children with foods that they will actually eat can sometimes be a major accomplishment. But packing a lunchbox for a child with sucrose intolerance may prove to be even more difficult. Sucrose intolerance, also known as congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID), occurs when the digestive enzymes, sucrase and isomaltase, are absent in the gastrointestinal tract, making digesting certain types of sugars difficult. The lack of these enzymes can cause gas and bloating, diarrhea, and even constipation. But with just a few easy tips, your child’s lunchbox can be low-sucrose, colorful, healthy, and the envy of many lunch-goers.
When planning what to pack for lunch, think of the five basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and whole grains.
For a child with sucrose intolerance, a lunchbox should contain only four of the five: fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy. Every food chosen from each group should be a different color since different colors mean different nutrients! Rotating food choices on a weekly or bi-weekly basis maintains variety and holds your child’s interest.
Start with fruits.
Berries and grapes are easy to pack in a small container or baggie. These fruits are loaded with antioxidants and contain a low-sucrose source of carbohydrates to help fuel your child for the second half of the day. Alternatively, a pear packs 24 percent of your child’s total fiber needs for the day and makes a delicious lunch side. The fiber found in a pear helps keep your child full until the next meal.
Next up is vegetables.
It is recommended that children consume two to three servings of vegetables per day. One option is to give your child a low-sucrose crunch by packing celery with peanut butter. This crunchy snack offers a good source of protein plus fiber! Cucumbers dipped in vinegar and oil also make an excellent packable vegetable option. Bell peppers of any color, paired with a sucrose-free Italian dressing, are a healthy option that provides vitamin C to keep your child’s immune system up to par.
As for protein, many low-sucrose options are suitable for a lunchbox.
Protein is a vital component of the lunch box since it helps to build and strengthen your child’s body. Leftover protein from dinner can be transformed into lunch the next day. For example, leftover chicken chunks or meatballs from the previous night can be eaten cold the next day. Pair the meatballs with a homemade, sucrose-free, marinara sauce and a few toothpicks for a fun way to eat them! When packing protein, be sure to use ice packs in the lunchbox since meat needs to be kept below 40°F to decrease the risk for foodborne illness.
Dairy foods are incredibly important for growing children since they contain calcium.
It is recommended that children eat at least two to three servings of low-fat dairy each day. Cottage cheese, sucrose-free Greek yogurt, string cheese, and Swiss cheese chunks all make excellent low-sucrose, high-calcium options for your child’s lunch.
Keeping in mind that a low-sucrose lunchbox should have four food groups, mixing and matching these food groups makes packing easier. One example of a great low-sucrose lunch is meatballs with homemade marinara sauce for dipping, paired with cucumbers and olive oil, and berries topped with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. Alternatively, to mix up the colors and textures, you could pack chicken strips paired with red peppers, a pear, and cottage cheese.
To get some buy-in for those healthy, low-sucrose lunchbox goodies, let your child choose what to pack and then help with the packing. Give your child the option to pick one fruit, one vegetable, one protein, and one dairy product. Research has shown that children who participate in cooking typically eat what they cook; this idea holds true for packing lunches. If they help pack their own lunch, they might actually eat it!