Children's packed lunches 'lack fruit and veg'


Kate Mendoza: "Eating healthily can reduce people's chances of getting diseases like cancer"

Related Stories

Parents are failing to put enough fruit and veg into their children's packed lunches, health experts have warned.

The School Food Trust, which examined 3,500 packed lunches in England in 2009, says about 40% of lunchboxes do not contain any fruit or vegetables, compared with 10% of school dinners.

It said parents should consider switching to school meals.

Meanwhile, the World Cancer Research Fund has set up a website to give parents advice on healthier lunchboxes.

It says the same sort of changes as those made when TV chef Jamie Oliver championed school dinners are now needed.

It wants parents to ensure their children's packed lunches always contain at least two portions of fruits and vegetables.

'Missed opportunity'

WCRF head of education Kate Mendoza said: "There is no doubt Jamie Oliver helped achieve great things for the food served in school canteens. But as the nutritional content of school canteen meals has improved, the healthiness of the content of lunchboxes has been left behind.

Start Quote

Parents could spend almost eight days a year making packed lunches that meet the national standards for school food”

End Quote Patricia Mucavele, School Food Trust

"It is disappointing that children are going to school with lunchboxes that are not playing their part in helping to encourage the kind of healthy diet that is so important for their future.

"This is why we want to get across the message to parents that including a piece of fruit or using a portion of salad as a filling for a sandwich are positive things they can do for their children's health.

"It can sometimes be difficult for parents to control what their children eat, particularly if they are passing shops on the way home from school or visiting their friends. But parents can influence what is in their packed lunches and the fact that not all of them are doing so is a missed opportunity."

She said they were aiming to advise parents about healthy options - rather than telling them what not to put in as has happened in the past.

Patricia Mucavele, research and nutrition manager at the School Food Trust, which offers its own advice on packed lunches, said, "School lunches are now the most nutritious choice for children and young people.

"Packed lunches aren't as nutritious as school meals - they are typically higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and often contain foods that can't be provided in schools, such as sweets and salted snacks.


  • Butternut squash soup with wholegrain bread
  • Cous cous with roasted vegetables and chickpeas
  • Wholegrain pasta salad with tomatoes, green beans and sweetcorn in green pesto sauce
  • Low-fat cream cheese on wholegrain cracker with grapes
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks
  • Dried fruits

"Making healthy packed lunches that give children the variety they need in their diet takes a lot of time and effort.

"We have previously estimated that parents could spend almost eight days a year making packed lunches that meet the national standards for school food.

"And when you look at how the prices compare, it gives parents wanting to give their children good food, and save time and money, something to think about."

The trust's 2009 Primary School Food Survey, included an in-depth look at the contents of almost 3,500 packed lunches across 135 schools in England.

It found 58% of those with packed lunches had items that could count towards their "five a day" fruit and vegetable target, compared with over 90% of those eating school meals.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    199 Don't be daft - since when did a single apple or some tomatoes cost more than a shop bought bun & bag of crisps? You can even grow the tomatoes & apples in a backyard as I do - even cheaper!

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    no! they lack pork pie's and woodbines..

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    @7. congokid
    Its not beyond the capabilities of even the laziest of parents to slice a cucumber or a tomato surely?
    @56. steve
    ha ha excellent
    @104. simonthepieman
    absolutely bananas! what a peach!

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Or could it be that fruit & veg are just too expensive. You can shout all day long that people should eat healthily, but when the cost of healthy food is much higher than processed food, what else are parents to give their children.

    Those who claim it isnt expensive, remember you need to eat more fruit & veg to feel full compared to other foodstuffs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    189.yes grow up i think thats what the majority of this paranoid country need to do. We are turning into a nanny state. I think after 27 years if i was going to develop health issues do you not think i would have done so by now? However I tell to make make my own decisions and it dosent take someone with a PHD to tell me to just eat sensibly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    If I put fruit and veg into my boy's packed lunch it would simply rot in there and he would just not eat at school. Surely a sandwich and crisps he will eat are better than nothing? Can't believe people get paid to come up with these reports!

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I don't understand why so many people say their children don't touch fruit and veg in their packed lunches. A typical packed lunch for my kids is sanwich, yoghurt, 2 types of fruit and water. This all gets eaten. I don't think any child should have a packet of crisps every day.

    When having school dinners my kids love the salad cart on top of main meal. I have been told this by many teachers

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    And how much did this advice cost?

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I refuse to fill my kids with 'healthy' low fat nonsense and bread (whether wholemeal or not). It is this modern 'healthy' eating that is driving this country into an early grave. Eat NATURAL unprocessed foods and encourage your children to do the same. Why give them tasteless pasta, bread etc when they can enjoy flavoursome foods like eggs, meat, fruit and veg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Butternut squash soup? My son's school won't allow hot or fizzy drinks on safety grounds. As for cous-cous salad; most of that would end up on his clothesr! That said, my son does have at least 2 portions of fruit or veg in his lunch box and also gets a piece of fruit free from the school. He normally eats most of it. If he doesn't then he goes hungry because I don't give him crisps etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    My daughter has sandwiches, drink of water, a homemade biscuit or cake and some fruit in her lunch box. Her evening meal contains the portions of fruit or veg she needs. If I was to give her anymore she wouldn't have time to eat it. Just because some children don't have enough in their lunch box you can't judge the parents, as they may give them what they need in the eveing meal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    I really don't get all of this.The Healty Options listed are very adult eg. Butternut squash soup with wholegrain bread- nice stuff but don't think this is something that a child will be eager to have in their lunch box. What is wrong with a sanwich/roll with say ham/cheese, chicken/lettuce/tomato, plus a juice or flavoured milk. AND a packet of crisps - has less sat fat than many options.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    post 130 - Most fruit juices are predominantly sugar, as are the majority of yoghurts on supermarket shelves. Add crisps into the mix along with processed carbohydrate (bread) which is turned into sugar by the liver then you've got yourself quite a sugar-filled concoction. Parents who feed their kids this often wonder why their kids are hyperactive and won't sleep at night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    That is a load of rubbish ... but even i remember being made to eat veg as a kid and i hated it then and i still hate it now and im 27 years old. i do not any fruit or veg and i am not overweight and i have no skin,bone or teeth problems or any other issues with my health.

    Of course, years of scientific research is wrong because you've not got scurvy, yet. I think you need to grow-up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    There is rarely fruit or veg in my child's packed lunch. Always a sandwich and a yoghurt, sometimes crisps. But the absence is more than compensated each evening at home. Our school has just 84 pupils and approx. 60% take school meals. Given the numbers, the quality is barely mediocre. Which parent probably has a better idea as to what exactly their child is or isn't eating each day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I worked as a school meals supervisor when all the fuss over Jamie's healthy school dinners came about, and as such, the food provided became healthier. We had never before thrown away so much food. It was the same with lunchboxes - the children used to sneak past to throw the fruit, veggies into the waste bin, so they could pretend that they had eaten everything - and these were 4-7 year olds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    How can something full of chemicals and additives be a 'treat'. Children are brought up on this 'treat' nonsense and all it is somebody else's agenda. A balanced diet does not mean junk food as well (in the hope that the fruit and veg will save you?).

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    re 180
    You are so right
    The BBC is a statist left-of-centre (remember Polly Toybee as social affairs editor) collectivist organisation. So any nanny-knows-best stories even with the merest hint of implied coalition criticism will be given prominence. I think all teenagers should be told by their parents to eat sausages, pies, and high fat dairy products, because they are sure to do the opposite!

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @Zinedine Zidane
    "£2.15 is not too much to pay. Some people need to look at theior priorities"
    It's more expensive then the packed lunches I send them in with so on a tight budget it is to much. I don't smoke, drink or go out much. TV is just kids channels and documentaries because kids love them and they get fruit and veg at home. So which priorities should I change to afford school dinners?

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    128.... That is a load of rubbish, i am not a parent but even i remember being made to eat veg as a kid and i hated it then and i still hate it now and im 27 years old. i do not any fruit or veg and i am not overweight and i have no skin,bone or teeth problems or any other issues with my health.

    No child will appreciate being forced to eat something they just might not like.


Page 5 of 15


More Health stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.