Stay out of my child’s lunch box

20/03/2015 Help for Parents, Lunchbox

Healthy Kids has seen signs of anxiety when it comes to what to pack in school lunch boxes.

It’s been reported that some schools are introducing lunchbox policies and banning items such as pre-packaged foods, which has fuelled discussion in the media about how we send healthy eating messages to kids.

Our roles

Schools play an important role in teaching kids about food, particularly about everyday ‘core’ foods that should make up the bulk of their diet. And yes, these include school lunches and snacks.

The issue is not about pre-packaging, but rather what is in the food itself. Banning pre-packaged foods risks sending confusing and contradictory messages and starts to create stressful situations around all food and drink. Not all pre-packaged food is unhealthy, and not all homemade foods are healthy.

What to do?

During an average school day, kids consume around a third of their daily intake. This means it’s vital that lunch boxes contain a variety of nutritious core foods to meet growth needs.

Healthy Kids encourages everyone who packs a school lunch box to use core foods first.

These include vegetables and legumes, fruit, grains and cereals (preferably wholemeal/whole grain), lean meat/poultry/fish, eggs or alternatives (legumes, nuts, soy) and reduced fat dairy.

Packaged snack foods such as confectionery, chips and biscuits are low in nutrients and high in added sugar, salt and saturated fat. These should not make up part of the school lunch box. However, there are many healthy pre-packaged foods that can make a positive contribution to a child’s diet, so to condemn all pre-packaged foods is misguided.

The following are quick and easy snacks that are full of essential nutrients and far better options than chips, confectionery, coated bars and biscuits:

  • Small tubs of reduced fat yoghurt
  • Wholegrain crackers with reduced fat dips or cheese
  • Small packets of dried fruit (less than 40g is ideal)
  • Sticks of reduced fat cheese

We have more ideas on healthy school lunchboxes here.