Children's packed lunches 'lack fruit and veg'


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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Another 'charity' desperate for publicity by making ordinary people feel bad. When I was a child most people died 20 years before they do now, so our diet isn't anywhere near as bad as a lack of food. Why can't experts leave us alone? Why do the media need so much pointless fodder to fill their pages.

  • Comment number 261.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    My daughter gets free fruit and veg at school. She proudly told me she had eaten 4 apples and a pear today. THAT's why I do not put any extra fruit in her lunch box. I also like to give her fruit for snack when she comes home from school, so she is not too full up before her dinner is served. This always contains veg. I think portion sizes and inactivity are the greatest cause of obesity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    What kid brings soup for lunch... good heavens. A simply apple and some carrot sticks works the business and is "survivable" in a lunch box. With these you will also not be the kid who brought soup for lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Children will eat what they like and will not be forced inyo eating fruit if the dont wont to my youngest son has very rarely eaten fruit and veg he is now 29 healthy hasnt seen a doctor for years apart for hay fever each year is six fot three a healthy weight and fit enough as he is in the police
    maybe the experts are not always right

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    How many calories should my son have for lunch?. I would think 500 calories would be good. How do you make up 500 calories in vegtables. It must take about 2 kg of of veg and fruit to make 500 calories. Just taking this weight to school, he will loose 500 calories in weight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Children's packed lunches 'lack fruit and veg'
    Another "non" story by the BBC.
    It was only five or so years ago that the Labour Government and schools thought it was nutricious to feed our children "Turkey Twizzlers"

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    253 Codswallop, most fruit doesn't need to be kept in a fridge at all - that's just another daft excuse along with the 'but fruit is more expensive than cake' nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    This is a snap shot of what children eat and I'm not sure what conclusions can really be drawn. A better study would have been to determine how many of those 58% of children actually ate their fruit and veg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    It's hardly surprising, is it? Processed food is cheaper and lasts longer. Who wants to give their child something that will not be kept in a fridge and will be at increased risk of habouring harmful bacteria when it gets eaten? A child who has an unappetising lunch will not eat it, either seeking something even more unhealthy that the parent has no control over, or just skipping the meal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    251 I sympathise nikki - it's a sorry state of affairs when you have to produce a doctors note to explain the contents of your childs lunch bag to school. It is well known kids with illnesses like CF need a very high calorie diet to help keep them well. Schools should butt out if they don't care to understand this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I love all this talk about healthy eating. But what about the people that need to eat unhealthy things to help them?? My daughter has Cystic Fibrosis and needs fat, I have so many problems with school, with dinner supervisors telling her she can not eat what is in her lunch box, because there is to many unheathly things, but they are healthy to her.

  • Comment number 250.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    I thought this article was making sense until I got to the list of 'healthy lunch options'. Those might be 'healthy' choices for adults, but they are really not suitable for kids since they're all very low in fat. Kids need more fat in their diets than adults, albeit 'good' fats. Suggesting that kids should eat carrot sticks and low-fat cream cheese is very irresponsible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    10 Megan The school DO hand out fruit - at morning break, in the Infants at primary school; apples, oranges, carrot & raisins usually.
    Still doesn't justify this snooping in kids lunch bags though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    For those who seem to think a piece of fruit costs the same as a bag of crisps, or a Twix - where on earth are you doing your shopping? There is no price differntial between the two - so please dont use the excuse that fruit is more expensive than sweets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    One of the quickest ways to put people off the health message is to keep yapping on about health messages so often and so stridently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    To ensure my kids will eat their lunch I don't overflow it with fruit and veg because if they get battered/bruised my kids WON'T eat them. I put in a sandwich with meat and lettuce, yoghurt, cheese, a fruit juice drink and a packet of crisps for a treat. The rest of their 5 a day is had at breakfast, tea or as afterschool snacks. I'm not an idiot just a responsible parent ! Get lost do-gooders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    there should be concern that some children do not have a suitable breakfast or evening meal when parents have put together a lunch box you can probably assume that the child has access to other meals so we should relax and let the children enjoy their lunch. as no doubt parents will be getting them to eat some form of fruit or veg at home which the child will hate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    I say again what I always say on the daily 'obesity' thread: whatever you may read, or what some people may believe (or desire) 'obesity' as defined by a BMI scale never intended to be used to label individual adults, far less kids, is *NOT A CRIME*. Nor is it a moral failing, an indicator of poor character, or shorthand for evil. It's just a natural, evolutionary human variation, AND THAT'S ALL.


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