Should a healthy diet begin with a child’s lunchbox?
Yes, it’s likely many parents have been having a slight panic regarding the return of the, ‘have you made my lunchbox yet?’ question.
It’s interesting that a lunchbox can actually be filled with all kinds of emotions from love to guilt, frustration and stress to almost nutritional extremism. For a small plastic box it really can pack quite a punch.
Not only are lunchboxes quite a tricky subject, with regards to organisation, endless variety, time management, faddy kids etc. but now the lunchbox seems to be the battle ground in the war against obesity.
Lunchboxes represent so much. They are a link to home, a reassuring container full of familiar tastes and sometimes comfort food. They are also a lifeline to keep students going from 8.30 in the morning until they reach home. Inevitably these boxes are required to do a lot and the responsibility falls on the parent or carer to provide everything. So, added to this pressure parents should be planning a management system to prevent obesity and create balanced lunches. After all, they are no longer seen as just a stop gap. They are a major fuelling station. Often children fail to eat sufficient numbers of vegetables and dairy foods during school hours and therefore it’s difficult for them to hit their daily targets for good health.
Is there help at hand?
Is there anything we can do to ensure our kids are fed well but that doesn’t stress us out in the process? One only has to look to the food industry to see just what they have come up with to assist.
Of course it’s a captive market and a recent report compiled by Innova Market Insights recorded an 11% annual compound growth rate in the provision of ‘school-related’ food items. You may have also noticed the supermarket shelves sporting such labels as:
school lunches and after school etc.
The ‘no additives or preservatives’ tag lines are also very popular. But do these new products provide us with a get out of jail free card?’ Probably not. If anyone has seen a stray packet of Lunchables they usually come in at between 230 and 360 calories for something that can vanish in a moment. Packaged snacks are often reliant on refined flour, added sugars, and artificial ingredients, so probably not ideal every day..
Should taste and nutrition be sacrificed at the altar of convenience?
Obviously convenience is key and no one wants to be cooking a full roast every morning! Yet, do we have to sacrifice nutrition and taste because we imagine that we have no time to do anything else? Surely if lunchboxes are the main stay of a child’s nutrition while they are learning then isn’t it a good idea to plan in advance and also get the children helping to prepare their food too?
On the Snack and Bakery website there is a poll for the best healthy school snacks 2019, so this category is definitely ‘a thing’. But they don’t come cheap and it may well be worth organising a weekend home baking session where kids learn to make the food they are going to eat. It will be a quality experience for all involved and also save money. None of the pre-packaged bars are particularly economical so preparation is probably a key game changer.
So if you are in a hurry what packs a punch in a lunchbox?
Whole nuts or a small box with grains, seeds, nuts and some chopped up chocolate can be something kids can dip into. Fruit is easy and convenient but don’t overdo it as there’s a lot of sugar included. Whole grains are useful. Things like home made falafel, home made popcorn or celery with peanut butter and raisins, trail mix, cheese, hard boiled egg, homemade cookies, baked sweet potato fries, energy balls and carrot sticks with hummus are good starts.
Obviously the school snack market can only continue to grow but putting together something balanced and really beneficial for your children should not necessarily always come out of a packet? What do you think? Have you got a lunchbox favourite that ticks all the boxes you could share? Do you think the food industry is missing a trick when it comes to fuelling students of all ages? What’s your favourite stop gap?
For more information go to the Safe Snack guide.
My role is as a recruiter specialising in the Food and Drink Industry. If you need my assistance do pick up the phone. For a no obligation discussion please call me directly on + 44 7793 526078 or click here to schedule an appointment directly at a time to suit you.