1. Is lunch the most important meal of the day?
Packing lunches is another job to fit into the morning scramble when there’s no time to get creative and prepare fresh food from scratch.
Even though school meals are under more scrutiny than ever, kids' packed lunches don't seem to have been touched by the food revolution. Leeds Beckett University surveyed 1,000 parents and found that over half included processed savoury snacks and confectionery every day. Fewer than half included any vegetable snacks. The situation appears so bad that the School Food Plan supports headteachers in banning packed lunches altogether. Is there another way?
2. What’s so bad about…?
1,000 parents surveyed by Leeds Beckett University packed these items most often in their lunches. How does it stack up?
4. How to get kids to eat more fruit and veg
All your efforts of packing healthy snacks may seem fruitless if you suspect it’s quietly thrown in the bin. Go beyond apples and cucumber sticks with a few simple tips.
- Make fruit and veg easier and quicker to eat by ensuring it’s bite-sized.
- Cut up a whole melon, mango or pineapple into cubes and store in the fridge. It will take seconds to add to a lunchbox.
- Cut an apple into slices and reassemble around the core, secured with a rubber band. This makes apples easier to nibble without going brown.
- Make fruit the dessert – fruits like melon, mango and grapes are expensive and taste sweet enough to count as a special treat.
- Dried fruit is a great snack, but has quite a lot of sugar. Pack as much dried fruit in a serving as you’d eat if it was fresh.
5. Easy ideas for healthy fast food
With these simple, quick and portable ideas, a healthy packed lunch is in the bag.
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6. More tips and tricks
Do some marketing
Kids respond to bright colours, shiny packets and fun characters. That’s why companies use them to sell processed foods and costly character-branded snacks.
Take a leaf from their book and choose fun freezer blocks, bright mini pots, or get creative and draw your own art on disposable plastic food bags. Let kids change their lunchboxes often. Use different sized pots that are easy to open.
Don't skimp on good fats
Many parents may worry that their children won't eat enough if they don't pack lots of their favourite snack foods. Switch to foods that are full of energy and satisfying - but also full of nutrients. Nuts and nut butters (if your school allows), oily fish such as salmon, hummus, or full-fat unsweetened yoghurt fill kids up fast. Combining these with fruit or veg - such as slices of apple and cheese, banana and yoghurt, or celery and peanut butter - can also help increase their five-a-day.
Drinking enough water
Give children a see-through bottle with small horizontal lines drawn on the side in permanent marker. They can gauge how much water they've drunk throughout the day, and so can you.