I went to my five year old nephew’s school a couple of weeks back to look at the packed lunches and to judge the best six out of around 40. I found some great healthy lunches, but others that left a lot to be desired…
The parents knew I would be coming in to have a look at the children’s lunches so I was expecting them to pull out all the stops to impress. Some of them did – one little boy had a lunch of a slice of bread, some mackerel and veg. It later transpired that he has quite a few allergies so his parents have to be pretty inventive.
It was great to see not just lots of fruit but also chopped carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and peppers in lunch boxes helping them to reach their five-a-day and also get used to including fruit and veg in their meals. I also saw lots of lunches with cheese portions or yoghurt which is great as these little ones need to make sure they’re getting enough calcium.
Sugar, fat, salt, and snacks
But I was taken aback to see sugary drinks (500ml bottles of Ribena), bags of Haribo sweets and large packets of crisps in some boxes. One child had a Peperami stick in his lunch box and when I asked another what filling he had in his sandwiches he replied ‘butter’.
My son is only two and has a hot meal at nursery so I don’t have the worry of making a packed lunch every day. I hope when he’s old enough to go to school he’ll eat the lunches there. I would dread having to think of healthy, balanced and affordable meals (that he’d be willing to eat!) to give him every day, so I do understand that it can be a real struggle for parents.
But it got me thinking – is a Peperami really a suitable item for a five-year-old’s packed lunch? According to the Food Standards Agency criteria it is high in fat, high in saturated fat and high in salt. A 25g Peperami contains 0.9g salt, around a quarter of a 5-10 year old’s maximum recommended daily salt intake.
Should we ban treats from lunchboxes?
I know of some schools that don’t allow chocolate, sweets, crisps or biscuits in packed lunches. The children’s lunchboxes are checked by teachers and treats are confiscated until the end of the day. The head teacher at the school I visited said that they didn’t ban any of these items but asked parents to be responsible and only allow the odd treat, not on a daily basis.
Do you find it a struggle to pack healthy and appetising lunches for your children, or even yourself? Do you think schools should ban ‘unhealthy’ items from packed lunches, or is it OK to give children the odd lunchtime treat?
Should schools ban unhealthy foods from packed lunches?
No – that’s too extreme, it’s up to the parents what they pack (57%, 110 Votes)
Yes – it’s important that parents are encouraged to pack healthy meals (43%, 82 Votes)
Total Voters: 193