Parents often commit to packing school lunches because they believe it will be healthier than relying on what a school offers. (This could especially be the case if the Trump Administration weakens public school food policy as threatened.) In addition, food restrictions add to the incentive to pack special lunches. While parents have the best of intentions, lunch boxes are often filled with convenient processed items, along with salty and sweet treats to keep the child happy. If you fall into that category (most do!) please read this report from Australia. If you want to make a change, we’ve added links to more than 150 ideas to help you create more healthful lunches.
Newswire: Finding the right balance between “always” and “sometimes” foods is a common challenge for parents. Unfortunately, school lunch boxes often end up containing more junk food than nutrition.
Unhealthy foods comprise more than a third of the daily energy intake of four to eight-year old Australian children, it’s an issue that must be addressed.
Cutting kids’ consumption of unhealthy food is the focus on a new study by the University of South Australia and Flinders University, where lead researcher and PhD candidate Brittany Johnson says there is clear connection between parents’ motivations, and their children’s intake of unhealthy foods.
“Parents hold the purse strings to the family pantry, which means they can help make a big difference in improving children’s diets,” Johnson says.
“But with statistics showing that kids are eating up to eight times the recommended serves for unhealthy foods– most commonly, cakes, biscuits, savory pastries and takeaways – and, that less than five per cent of Aussie kids eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables – there is certainly scope for changes.”
The imbalance of healthy to unhealthy foods in children’s diets is a serious problem that is contributing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity. Already, one in four Australian children (aged 2-17) are overweight, with global estimates currently at 340 million for children and adolescents (aged 5-19).
Johnson’s research assessed the motivations and behaviors of 495 parents (of three to seven-year-olds) finding that only 50 per cent of parents intend to cut back on their kids’ consumption of unhealthy foods. Johnson says this distinct knowledge-behaviour gap can be improved by boosting parents’ confidence, intention and planning.
“Parents need to believe that they can make changes and remember they are in control. Repeating in your head that you can reduce how much unhealthy foods kids eat and practising this can help,” Johnson says.
“This can be as simple as making a plan before you go to the supermarket, avoiding the confectionary aisle, and being mindful when selecting off-the-shelf school snacks which, while convenient and appealing, are typically jam-packed with fat, sugars, salt and little else.
“To improve children’s diet quality and reduce the risk of chronic conditions we need novel, scalable and effective interventions.
“We must better support parents to make positive changes. This can include providing clear information about unhealthy food recommendations, appropriate portion sizes, the benefits of children eating healthier foods and the impact of unhealthy choices.
“We can all help by making changes to reduce how many unhealthy foods we buy and consume. Only then will we start to see change.”
Full research report here
Online Ideas for School Lunches
Plan to adapt any of these that appeal to you to meet any dietary restrictions.
- 50 School Lunch Ideas
- 40 Healthy Kid Lunches to Keep You Inspired
- 100 Days of Real Food
- Gluten-Free Lunches: What Lisa Cooks