As we know, from research undertaken by the School Food Trust, eating a healthy school meal can positively affect children’s learning capacity as well as behaviour in the classroom and around school. Likewise, you will be aware there is increasing concern about rising rates of obesity and related health problems in children.
As a school, it is part of our responsibility to help children learn how to eat healthily and we do so on a regular basis through a range of activities.
We understand that whilst some pupils already have fairly healthy packed lunches there are an increasing number of packed lunches that contain too many high sugared items and/or a lack of a main meal content, such as a sandwich or wrap.
Some lunchboxes contain little more than crisps, chocolate and sweets, which do not provide the sustenance needed to be healthy, mentally or physically, nor do such foods provide the sustenance needed to focus in learning.
As a guide:
Packed lunches should ‘always’ include one or more of the following:
at least one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables every day. Grapes and cherry tomatoes should be halved lengthways for Early Years/Reception class children
meat, fish, eggs, or a non-dairy protein (e.g. lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, houmous, falafel) every day.
oily fish, such as salmon, at least once every three weeks.
a starchy food such as any type of bread (white or wholegrain rolls, pitta bread or wraps),
pasta, rice, couscous, noodles, potatoes or another cereal every day.
a dairy food such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais or custard every day.
a drink of water, fruit juice or smoothie (maximum portion 150 mls), semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, yoghurt or another milk drink.
Packed lunches can ‘Sometimes’ include:
A meat product such as a sausage roll or an individual pie or corned meat.
A cake or biscuit, although these should not be chocolate coated.
A packet of crisps.
You should 'avoid' a packed lunch that includes:
Any confectionery such as chocolate bars, chocolate-coated biscuits and sweets.
Any extremely sugary soft drinks, such as a fizzy drink (even if labelled as ‘sugar-free’, ‘no- added sugar’ or ‘reduced sugar’ as these drinks can contribute to tooth decay and provide little nutritional value).
Whilst I will not direct my staff to remove items from lunchboxes, I will support families by ensuring that they are aware of the dietary needs for children and signpost where guidance can be given. With this in mind, I provide a link below signposting advice. Likewise, you may be contacted by a member of staff to advice you if we have concerns.
What makes a healthy, balanced packed lunch for children?
There are currently no regulations regarding the types of foods that can be included in school packed lunches, although many schools have policies in place, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with your child’s school packed lunch policy as some food items maybe restricted.
Below are some guidelines on how to put together a healthy, balanced packed lunch – these follow the principles of the UK healthy eating model, the Eatwell Guide:
A school packed lunch should:
Be based on starchy foods
Include plenty of fruit and vegetables
Top tip: Make your own individual bags of dried fruit - place a small handful of mixed dried fruits, into food bags or sealed containers to store in the cupboard, this will also keep the costs down!
Include a portion of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, a dairy food and/or a non-dairy source of protein
Include a drink
Top tip: Schools may not have fridge space available for children’s packed lunches, so to keep your child packed lunch cool, freeze a drink to act as a cool pack and it will melt back in time for lunch!