Claire Deeks pushes real food for school lunch to encourage healthy kids

Many parents find it hard to steer clear of lunchbox staples like muesli bars, yogurt, dried fruit and white-bread sandwiches.

But one mum wants to change that by showing parents how easy - and affordable - healthier lunchboxes can be to prepare.

Auckland mum Claire Deeks gave up her 12-year law career to show parents how to make quick, healthy, paleo-inspired lunches for their kids.

She is touring her Mothers On A Mission For A Kids Lunchbox Revolution event which brings tools, tips and tricks to help transition families into eating real food.

Each event features a guest speaker who specialises in an aspect of women's wellness and parenting.

Deeks, 39, started her blog Dom's Kitchen, named after her 5-year-old son Dominic, two years ago to document her family's journey to eat "real food".

Now they eat up to nine servings of vegetables a day, very little sugar, no processed food and have around half the average carbohydrate intake.

This extends to Dominic's lunch. Deeks found the easiest way to make a healthy lunchbox is to use leftovers from dinner.

She said it can cost as little as $2.50 when making a vegetarian lunch. Or up to $5.50 for a lunch that includes meat and uses all organic and free-range ingredients. Her lunch boxes usually cost about $4 to make.

"There are some small steps parents can do for their kids that really don't take so much time and can have a dramatic effect on the health of their child. Little things will make a difference."

The hardest thing is when you don't want your children to miss out at events like birthday parties, Deeks said.

But with statistics like 33 per cent of Kiwi kids between the ages of 2 and 4 being overweight, 5000 children a year needing general anaesthetic for severe tooth decay and 260,000 New Zealanders having diabetes, it strengthened her resolve.

"Every parent wants their kids to fit in but the statistics are scary enough," Deeks said.

"At this point it's better to be different. Being normal is not going to pan out that well for a kid."

Deeks said some of the common things parents put in lunchboxes such as yogurt, muesli bars, white bread and dried fruit are the worst.

"A lot of kids, when you look at their lunchbox, it's nearly all going to break down to sugar in their bodies.

"It's a perfect storm for illness and chronic disease."

Deeks had an epiphany that everything she knew about nutrition was wrong in early 2014 after she stayed up all night reading paleo books.

Almost overnight the ex-bodybuilder changed from her high-cardio exercise regime and low-fat, high-protein diet to a cross-fitting, high-fat diet.

She lost over 5kg, found her energy became more consistent and didn't get bloated or feel hungry as often. Her skin improved and the pimples, bumps on her arms and skin tags disappeared.

"I had this real 'oh my goodness what am I doing?' moment... The new diet is best described as food freedom."

While Deeks spent over a decade as a lawyer and patent attorney, she stopped practising law early this year to become a food advocate for children.

Nutritionist Abbie O'Rourke loves what Deeks is doing. She said paleo essentially just means whole foods.

"It's the only way to nourish kids without adding harmful additives and preservatives which can hurt their stomachs or give them behavioural issues.

"For kids it's colourful, it's fun and great as it's cut into little bits and pieces for their little fingers."

O'Rourke makes two lunchboxes a week for her 16-month-old daughter, Poppy Evans. She includes items like boiled eggs, cheese sticks, cut-up carrot and apple, and beef jerky.

Lunchbox comparison

Claire Deeks' lunchboxes

• Sausages and cauliflower popcorn lunchbox
1 mandarin $2.29/kg = 46c
⅓ capsicum $2/3 = 66c
3 florets broccoli $2.49/15 = 17c
1 floret cauliflower $3.99/20 = 20c
1 tbsp organic "be nourished" sauerkraut 12g; 380gm jar = $14.98 jar/30 = 50c
2 sausages (gluten free/filler free) - L'Authentique brand from Farro Fresh on special $5.99 for 6 = $2 for 2
Total $3.99

• Chicken, avocado and strawberry lunchbox
2x Bostock organic chicken drumsticks = $2.00
1/8 organic avocado = $1/each = 12c
⅙ capsicum = 33c
4 cherry tomatoes = $4.99/punnet = 4 = 50c
4 olives = 5.59/punnet = 90c
4 strawberries = $2 punnet = 50c
Total $4.30

• The egg, hummus and smoothie lunchbox
1 serve homemade hummus = 35c
1 true free range hard boiled egg $12/tray of 30 = 40c
20g mung bean sprouts $1.69/200g = 20g = 10c
2 cherry tomatoes small pack $4.99 = 50c
1 slice cucumber = 2.49/each = 4c
¼ carrot = $2/kg = 20g = 5c
pineapple slices = $3.50 whole = 10c
⅛ mandarin = $2.29kg = 5c
1 corn thins = $1.67/100g = 10g = 16c
1 cookie (gluten free organic) = 70c
1 smoothie with coconut yogurt, berries, banana, avocado and almond milk = $1.55
Total $4

Buy tickets to Claire's Mothers On a Mission event here.

For loads of healthy kid-friendly recipes and tips and tricks on more fun real food with families, visit Dom's Kitchen.

- NZ Herald

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