Schools are teaching parents what to put in their kids’ lunchboxes to curb obesity

Schools are teaching parents what to put in their children’s lunch boxes to reduce obesity, as research shows less than 1 in 60 packaged meals meet nutritional standards

  • A study in England found that pupils regularly consumed sausage rolls, crisps and biscuits
  • Today, charity works with over 100 schools to improve nutrition
  • Two-thirds of lunches contained too much sugar and only half contained a piece of fruit

Schools are teaching parents what to put in their children’s lunch boxes after research showed less than 1 in 60 packaged meals were healthy.

A study in England found that pupils regularly consumed sausage rolls, crisps and biscuits, but rarely fruit and vegetables.

Today, a charity works with more than 100 schools to improve nutrition and runs classes for moms and dads on what constitutes an appropriate lunch.

Two-thirds of lunches contained too much sugar, only half contained a fruit and only a fifth included a vegetable, according to a study by the University of Leeds.

Schools are teaching parents what to put in their children’s lunch boxes after research showed less than 1 in 60 packaged meals were healthy (stock image)

Most sandwiches were made with white bread. Ham was the most popular filling, but jam and Nutella were common.

Stephanie Slater, from School Food Matters, said: ‘We are helping schools implement a packed lunch policy and workshops for parents so they know what to include in their child’s lunchbox.

More than 100 schools are signed up to the five-year program and are offered a ‘support menu’, including workshops for parents in London schools on ‘affordable nutritious’ recipes.

Miss Slater added: ‘With a clear policy in place, school staff do not have to become ‘packed lunch police’, which creates tension between schools and families. But the best way to ensure kids get the variety and nutrition they need to thrive is to encourage them to eat a hot meal at school.

The study, which followed 2006 habits, was published in the journal BMJ Open. The 2006 data included 1,148 pupils from 76 schools in England. Eighteen schools participated in a follow-up in 2016.

Overall, only 1.6% of lunch boxes met nutritional standards, down from 1.1% in 2006.

A study in England found that pupils regularly consumed sausage rolls, crisps and biscuits, but rarely fruit and vegetables (stock image)

A study in England found that pupils regularly consumed sausage rolls, crisps and biscuits, but rarely fruit and vegetables (stock image)

Rules on the nutritional quality of school dinners were introduced in 2006 in England but no law covers packed lunches.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “The answer to this problem surely lies with Boris Johnson who, when the Mayor of London, backed calls for a ban on school lunch boxes…

“He recognized that children learn best by eating warm, nutritious food rather than boxes of bric-a-brac which also feed weight gain.”

Some 14.4% of children were obese when they started primary school in 2020-21.

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