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 282.

    Bless! Does Kate Mendoza have any experience of putting a kid's lunchbox together? It's quite a challenge packing enough food into a small space, avoiding leaks and mess as well as tempting a picky child. I hated taking apples as a child; they are heavy and don't satisfy for long. Fruit and veg are best eaten AT HOME.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Pious nonsense! Lunchboxes should contain things which feed a child quickly and cleanly without creating embarassing smells or a messy school room. Fruit and veg are heavy and can contain too few calories to sustain a child through a school day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I constantly have to justify my children's lunchboxes. They have an intolerance to wholewheat (yes really, a medical diagnosis, not just being faddy) so have to have white bread. They can't eat too much fruit or veg as that sets off their IBS. They are always being told to tell mummy to give them brown bread and more fruit - not a chance! They have a balanced diet within their restrictions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    This may come as a stunning revelation to the kind of people who run these groups, but children LIKE sugary quick to eat treats and couldnt care less about snobby sounding foods. Adults may enjoy butternut squash, but kids couldnt care less. Let them enjoy a few years of scoffing the things adult wish they could without consequence and they will grow out of it, like every adult did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    I give my children packed lunches with sandwiches, fruit, cheese, yoghurt and juice. They won't eat salad in sandwiches, if I try and sneak some in they come back untouched. They have school dinners as a treat on Thurs and Fri. It is a treat as they don't seem to eat any fruit or veg and in their words have something 'yummy' for pudding. They have a healthier option when they take a packed lunch!

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    And kids do not need 'low fat' cream cheese or nastily manufactured 'spreads' instead of proper butter or 'whole grain' pasta- we lived in Italy for two years and the stuff was laughed at.... All these are for mummy tummy's posing on the school run. Carrot cucumber and celery sticks. My boys still down them at 17 and 15! And nuts and raisins. Can't upset them in the bag and dye the homework.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Sure, a small proportion of parents haven't a clue but most do and it's very patronising when the majority get the boot for the minority in an unbalanced article. My son's packed lunch is healthy - trust me! I'm his parent (the clue's in the p- word). And what were my son's comments today after trying school dinners for the first time? "I had the pasta but the vegetables didn't taste nice!" Hmm!

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    I am intrigued by foods in the list above which does not specify then as 'packed lunch or school lunch'.....Hope not packed lunch
    1. Butternut squash soup- lovely one for the young male school bag sometimes used as a football.
    2. Couscous with roasted vegetables- either Mama is busy roasting the vegetables late at night or this is a supermarket pre-prepared. $$$$

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Basic fat and high cholesterol kills. Crying and moaning for large portions of meat leads to an early death from profound and morbid obesity. Heart attacks and strokes are often caused by poor diets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    268 Beetroot & bovril! Very good on their own perhaps - not together surely? Sounds like the sort of thing I used to eat while pregnant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    269 Martinvisa Kids perhaps 'don't care' about their own health so it's up to their parents to care.
    Primary schools do provide free fruit & veg at break-time, up to approx age 8.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Go back 100 years, how much fruit and veg was available at British winter time? I am pretty sure we have not evolved with a need to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg and drink 8 glasses of water, as it was not available.

    As long as the kids don't get too chunky and keep active I am sure they will live to 100.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Of course all children should have at least one piece of fruit in their lunchbox. It is highly nutritious and when thrown at the teacher it is also excellent for improving hand/eye co-ordination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Nonsense! Firstly, the "healthy lunch option" is a bit of a joke. Who are they trying to target, over 20s? As a teenager myself and having had packed lunches during my time in primary school, from my experience and own opinion, i would say that people are putting far too much emphasis on "healthy eating". A child really doesn't care about there health. Why don't schools offer free fruit and veg?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Beetroot should be included in every child's lunchbox. And bovril. If all children had beetroot and bovril sandwiches for lunch there would be no health problems caused by a shortage of nutrients. Beetroot and bovril contain all the nutrients that a person needs according to Mrs Odicean. And butter. Wholemeal bread smeared with bovril, butter and sliced beetroot. And a tomato.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    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.'

    This article does not say you should give your children nothing but fruit and vegetables for lunch, that would be even more unhealthy than none at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Are we still trying to tell people how and what to eat ?
    How about some experts to make the food we eat of better quality ?
    I am all for children eating a more healthy diet, so how is it that in the fifties the vitamin C content of an orange was thirtyfold what it is today ?
    Seems to me that the priorities are still quantity over quality.
    More common sense over marketing please !

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I used to put fruit in my children's lunchboxes only for them to bring it home bruised and uneaten. Luckily, as adults, they have a more mature approach to food and choose to eat healthy amounts of fruit and vegetables.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    It seems to me that so called xxxx professionals are working to a hidden agenda. There is proven falsified data in Climate Science, in Passive Smoking, in Alcohol Limits etc. What makes anyone think health professionals are any different. I read a recent study about diet in WW2 when fruit was only occasionally available and food in short supply. People were deemed healthy. Please explain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    It would help if healthier options were less expensive then all the processed rubbish piled high on special offer at the supermarket. The cost of food - in particular the fresh veg, fruit, dairy and meat is sky high. We don't need any more research to tell us what eat. We need action so that the profits the big supermarkets make from selling rubbish to be put towards discounted healthy food.


Page 1 of 15


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 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.