Did you know that during lockdown, 70% of families with children under five have said their children have been snacking more than usual.
In fact most of us have been eating more as we were stuck at home for several months with limited options around the activities we undertake.
According to the NHS, one in five British children are overweight or obese by the time they begin primary school, so choosing healthy options for lunchboxes is important. However for parents this can be a continuing headache about what to include in a child’s lunchbox every day – especially if you are a parent who isn’t a foodie.
How school lunches have changed over the decades:
For many of the older generation, school lunches were served in a dining hall, with a teacher sat at the head of a trestle table, and they served the food to the children sitting with them. The meal would include things like, Irish Stew with a dollop of very sloppy mash, and jam roly poly with custard for pudding.
In the 1980s and 90s meals were served in a canteen style dining hall, where the children would queue for their meals, and clear away after themselves. The rise of packed lunches began and one section of the dining hall was usually reserved for those who brought their own packed lunch. This was often cheaper for parents and many children didn’t want school meals at all. Common lunchbox inclusions, alongside sandwiches, were Dairylea Lunchables, Frubes, Wagon Wheels, and crisps; not always the healthiest of options.
In 2005 Jamie Oliver rejuvenated school lunches, encouraging schools to replace turkey twizzlers and chips with more healthy and interesting choices. Cooked school meals may have improved, however at secondary school, young people can, if they wish, fill up on chips almost every day.
Presently, more than half of all primary children take a lunch box to school.
Recent analysis of children’s packed lunches has shown that 1.6% of eight and nine-year-olds have balanced packed lunches. Which means that fewer than two in 100 primary children are eating a healthy packed lunch.
The amount of sugar in lunch boxes has fallen over the years, but there are few vitamins or minerals included.
There are no guidelines for schools or parents, saying what a packed lunch should contain to make them healthy and nutritious.
This are things all parents should be aware of however what if your child has an additional need to – because they have allergies, perhaps life-threatening?
Having conversations with your child’s school
Having to decide what to prepare for your children’s lunchboxes every day is hard enough, but if your child suffers with allergies, things can be much harder.
They may be gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, or have nut or fish allergies, and you have to also ensure they don’t come into contact with any of these foods. Their school also has a duty of care around this too. In fact, children with allergies are more likely to take a lunchbox to school as parents – and the child- has more control over what they can safely consume.
These children need allergy free lunches that keep them satisfied until they come home; taste good; are healthy and wholesome and are similar to the foods served at school and to what their friends have in their lunch boxes.
Another issue for children with allergies is ensuring that they don’t feel excluded, isolated or ostracised from their friends.
Depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, it is important to have a conversation with the school and your child’s teacher, about how they can support your child whilst in school.
Most schools will have a system of seating children with allergies so they are not mixing with everyone else and being subjected to risks. This is often called, by children with allergies, The Allergy Table and frankly, they hate it.
However, at the present time with social distancing, this may make life easier, (if the school is following guidelines), as tables will be spaced further apart than normal any way and everyone will be affected. The ‘Allergy Table’ shouldn’t feel that different to everyone else.
If your child is sitting alone at lunchtime on the ‘allergy’ table, then they will feel ostracised. As a parent, you can prevent this, by talking to the parents of other friends of your child, who also eat packed lunches. Ask the school if the friends can sit together. Obviously, you have to discuss with the other parents, in depth, what things your child is allergic to, so that their friend doesn’t have that food in their lunchbox.
Instead of feeling excluded, this can be turned into a positive and they can be made to feel they belong to an exclusive friend group!
How to prepare a safe lunchbox:
A healthy lunchbox should include a range of different foods from the following types.
Check list for alternative choices and healthy foods for a lunchbox – subject to your own child’s needs around allergies:
- Protein: meat, tuna, boiled egg, ham, chicken, hummus.
- Carbs; oatcakes; crackers; wraps; gluten-free breads and breadsticks.
- Veggies; cucumber; tomatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas, celery, red peppers.
- Fruit; apples, banana, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, melon, pear, orange or dried fruit.
- Healthy fat: seeds, avocado, free from salad dressings,
- Treats/extras: Creative Nature’s Protein Crunch Bars, Raw Fruit Oaties and Gnawbles would all make the perfect extra treat (we have a special offer so look at that at the end of this blog before you place an order) – take a look creativenaturesuperfoods.co.uk
An extra useful thing to always add alongside the lunchbox, is a box of wipes to wipe down the table where your child is going to eat their lunch.
Here at Creative Nature we have many products that are the perfect healthy and safe alternative choice to take for lunch.
We are very excited to be launching, (very soon), our 8th Baking Mix – a new Cornbread Mix – another perfect alternative for the carb choice for the lunch box. Another choice could be the Banana Bread Mix, or you could try savoury filled pancakes in place of sandwiches, made with the new Pancake and Waffle Baking Mix. Or, when the rest of the school have pizza, why not make waffle pizzas as an alternative? These mixes can be used quickly at a weekend and provide tasty foods for two or three days at the beginning of the school week.
For special occasions, there are several baking mixes to choose from to create cookies, brownies or muffins. This would also be a great way to introduce other members of your child’s class to foods that are allergen free. At the same time, expelling the idea that ‘alterative foods’ are lacking something and don’t taste good. All of these baking mixes taste delicious, and you would never know they are free of anything!
Enjoy going back to school, and eating safely and healthily – perhaps adding a little of Creative Nature’s safe and tasty ‘colour’ to your lunchbox!
**To celebrate the return to school, we have a special offer, running from Sept 1st, for those going back to school and their parents.
The code to use on the checkout on the website is: LUNCHBOX20