Top five tips for healthy kids' lunches

Fiona Faulkner
by Fiona Faulkner  |  05 June 2012  |   9 comments

Following Martha Payne's expose of her school lunch, Fiona Faulkner offers a few lunchbox tips that may just surprise you.

Top five tips for healthy kids' lunches

Here at lovefood we’re as accustomed as you are to reading articles that tell us British school kids aren’t eating what they should be. In fact some local authorities are now ditching the carrot [batons] and using the stick approach instead – suggesting that teachers themselves police lunchboxes by carrying out random checks.

Jamie’s given up governments

As outraged as we used to be, it’s getting harder to muster up the passion to stoke those fires of change (surely if @jamieoliver has given up on governments, what hope is there for the rest of us?). You don’t need to search too far on the web to see that ‘school dinners’ is a huge and tangled web, with many sticking points: some schools and organisations are focusing on a campaign to ban processed meat while others are banging the drum for funding – presumably in order that they too can recruit an AA rosette chef.

school dinner

Then along comes nine year old school girl Martha Payne, who in the space of a week or so has managed to draw the attention of both government and Jamie. No mean feat.

How apt that despite the rallying calls of Grown Ups Everywhere - from celebrity chefs to cage-fighting ex husbands of glamour models (it's true: click the link) - a nine year old schoolgirl might just galvanise politicians to finally, and properly, address the problem of school dinners. So while Martha is busy changing the world and challenging governments, let me offer a few thoughts and ideas, some of which may surprise you:

Five new ways of thinking

1. Dried fruit is not a healthy lunchbox snack, no matter what the adverts say and the ‘other mums’ do. It’s full of sugar, albeit fruit sugar, and is widely panned by dentists as well as half decent nutritionists. For the same reason fruit juices and smoothies, both of which can cause irreversible dental erosion, should be limited. Go old school and offer an apple instead.

2. Hot dinners are not necessarily more nutritious than cold lunchboxes. In fact most veg has a higher nutritional content when served raw rather than cooked. If it’s cold outside and they fancy something more warming, use a flask for homemade soup.

3. Savoury Muffins will not only add to your kids’ lunchbox ‘cool factor’ - but will save you time and stress, as well as ticking off some of that 5 a day. Make some, freeze some – then grab what you need, letting them defrost in the lunchbox. Easy.

4. For younger kids, make lunch boxes part of a game – for example: “This week, we’re learning about different countries! So Monday is…Spain”. Create lunchbox food has a Spanish edge (e.g. olives as snack) and incorporate simple words and phrases in each language (on post-it notes in the lunchbox)

5. Don’t avoid ‘treats’ altogether or you run the risk of these becoming the ‘forbidden fruit’ – as well as compromising the credibility of older kids. Instead, take control by making your own – or make them make their own! 

And here’s a great final tip: whatever a cupcake recipe states for sugar, take out a further 50g. No one will notice the difference.

Got kids? We’d love to hear how you bling up those packed lunches – and any horror stories you’ve heard in the playground.

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