Whilst it is not mandatory in the UK, many schools have adopted healthier lunchbox policies, which have been shared with parents and carers to encourage healthy eating in school. These are usually based upon the principles of the Eatwell Guide, encouraging a lunchbox to contain:
Many schools also suggest to parents/carers that foods high in fat, salt and sugars should not be included (such as crisps, confectionary and sugar-containing carbonated drinks) and some schools have identified non-food based incentives for pupils to follow the healthier lunchbox policies; offering rewards such as stickers, certificates or team points. These policies aim to complement the provision already in place for school meals to help achieve a whole school food approach. The advice for healthier lunch policies relates to all of the UK.
What should be in a healthy lunchbox?
Eating a healthy, balanced lunch is vital for ensuring children have the right nutrients and enough energy to see them through the school day, however, achieving this balance is not always as easy as it sounds. The key to a healthy packed lunch is variety and getting the right balance of foods to provide children with all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. A packed lunch made at home can be a healthy and delicious choice and gives a parent or carer control over the foods and ingredients included.
A school lunchbox should:
Be based on starchy foods
Include plenty of fruit and vegetables
Include a portion of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, a dairy food and/or a non-dairy source of protein
Include a drink
Snacks and healthier treats
Although some cakes and savoury snacks may be allowed by your child’s school policy, these should be included less often and it is a good idea to select healthier options where possible. Having a healthy lunch does not mean not allowing any treats. However, it’s a good idea to check the school policy that these items are allowed before giving them as healthy treats. Below are some ideas for healthier break time snacks.
Another option of a healthier treat is to make individual bags of dried fruit by placing a small handful of mixed dried fruits, into food bags or sealed containers to. However, children should avoid dried fruit as a break time snack as they are high in sugar and can be harmful to their teeth. Instead dried fruit should only be offered at meal times.
It may be worth considering whether your child could have a school meal as meals served in schools in the UK (with the exception of some academies) have to comply with regulatory standards for the foods provided and it is often easier to get the essential nutrients children need into a cooked meal than into a packed lunch.
Other useful links
British Nutrition Foundation - https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/helpingyoueatwell/healthypackedlunches.html
Healthy lunchbox ideas (Change 4 life)- https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/healthier-lunchboxes
Food Standards Scotland - https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/consumers/healthy-eating/life-stages/children
How to make the perfect pre-school lunchbox! (EYNP) - http://www.eynpartnership.org/blog-news/how-make-perfect-pre-school-lunchbox
Lunchboxes (Change 4 life Wales) - http://change4lifewales.org.uk/recipes/lunchboxes/?lang=en
School packed lunch inspiration (BBC Good Food) - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/school-packed-lunch-inspiration
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