A lot of love and time goes into packing lunches. Packed lunches give parents greater control over what their child eats and when that lunch box returns home, the parents know how much - or how little! - their child has eaten.
However, only 1.6% of packed lunches meet the nutrition standards set for school meals. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, “it is often easier to get the essential nutrients children need into a cooked meal”. Check out our other blog for more benefits of school meals.
If parents would prefer to pack their children’s lunches themselves, it is important they contain enough variety to provide essential nutrients for growth and development.
Parents do not want their children to go hungry throughout the day so there is a huge temptation to pack it full of all their favourite things. But it is important to make sure this does not mean it's crammed with processed food high in sugar.
The food children consume now will affect their health and lifestyle choices later in life. Healthier diets can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.
Yogurt tubes have been considered a healthy snack due to calcium levels - but parents should be wary of the added sugar content. Children who frequently consume instant, processed foods like yogurt tubes during their early years are likely to carry these behaviours into their adult life and choose instant meals over fresh, home-cooked foods.
Over recent years, there has been a decrease in sugary snacks in packed lunches as campaigns like Change4Life encourage sugar swaps. But lunch boxes are still lacking in some nutrients - vegetables are the least common component of a packed lunch.
With schools now back open after the recent lockdown due to Covid-19, packed lunches from home or prepared in school have become more popular.
So, exactly what should we be including in our children’s packed lunches to give them the best start in life?
Packed lunches do not need to be laboursome, expensive, gourmet meals that take hours to make. Here are some tips for busy parents on a budget:
- Make a bit extra dinner during the week and box up the leftovers for lunch the next day.
- At the weekend, bulk make pasta or rice salad packed with veggies that all the family can use throughout the week.
- Write a plan for lunches each week to get the most out of your food shop and involve the children.
For inspiration on healthy, easy-to-prepare lunch boxes, check out the Change4Life recipes here.
Parents have been getting creative with lunchboxes to help children get back into the routine of being at school - from bento boxes to rainbow wraps. For some inspiration, check out Instagram pages like @schoollunchbox or the amazing recipes from Jamie Oliver here.
School meals are closely regulated to ensure they contain starchy foods, fruit, veg and protein. Not that long ago, school meals were bland with poor nutritional content and it was healthier for children to have packed lunches. But since then, campaigns by Jamie Oliver and changes to government regulations have pushed school meals into the spotlight and are now one of the healthiest options for your child.
With software like Schools Cash Office now available, schools can not only offer meals to many more pupils with ease but also increase the variety of meals without putting stress on their kitchens. Offering things like rotating menu cycles with different meal options each week can get children excited about school and excited about healthy food. Now schools too can pack a punch with their lunch.
To find out how the Dinner Money module can help your school record packed lunches and hot school dinners, call us today on 02380 016563 or book your free demo.
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