Breaking news, parents: packets of chips, lollies, soft drinks and – gasp – even beer should not be on the menu for your child’s school lunch this summer. Shocking, I know!
And while I jest, the healthy eating message is obviously still getting lost with recent reports of a Sydney school declaring war on junk food and my child’s daycare centre issuing repeated parental reminders to pack fruit – not chips and chocolates – in every child’s lunch box.
And while the above healthy food advice seems a bit captain obvious, I know, not so for the parents of North Sydney Demonstration School, where teachers must now also act as food cops, confronting parents if they find junk food in a student’s lunchbox.
School principal Myra Wearne recently defended the introduction of “food police”, saying curbing unhealthy eating ensured students reached their full learning potential, as sugary foods impacted kids’ concentration levels.
Ms Wearne, I salute you! While the occasional kiddie treat isn’t the antichrist, it’s imperative parents teach their kids about healthy eating and that this goes hand-in-hand with regular exercise. It takes a community to raise a child, so they say, and it’s in everyone’s best interests that kids are snacking down on fruit, rather than lollies. So, I say bring on the food nazis!
And while not many parents would put beer in their kids’ school lunch boxes these days, surely – my husband actually encountered this growing up in multicultural Melbourne, when one of his little primary school mates was caught with a stubbie of beer in his lunch box – in grade three!?
After much tut-tutting from teachers, his little mate’s Eastern European parents were hauled in with a “please explain” and hopefully some helpful healthy eating guidelines for their poor, little tucker. Of course, each state’s Department of Education requires all public school canteens to categorise their menus into red, green and amber food groups, where red means “occasionally”, amber is “select carefully” and green is “have plenty, or “fill the menu”. But of course no such categorisations exist for food brought from home.
So, poor, overworked parents, as school holidays draw to a close and you start preparing for back-to-school lunchbox duties, help is at hand thanks to Sydney dietician/nutritionist and author Susie Burrell.
On Susie’s hit list includes packaged snacks such as cheese and dip snack packs, muesli bars, fruit twists and straps, potato chips and biscuit dippers, which are usually full of fat and highly processed carbohydrates, but offer little nutrition. So, what is good lunchbox nutrition?
“A nutritionally balanced lunchbox can be divided into four core sections: low glycaemic index carbohydrates for energy, proteins for nutrition and fullness, fruit for fibre and vitamins and a snack food that has some nutritional benefit,” she says.
“Most importantly, busy children need plenty of water for optimal hydration, particularly in the warmer months when small children are at high risk of dehydration.”
Good options include wholegrain carbohydrates for energy; protein-rich sandwich fillings including tuna, lean ham, chicken or turkey or hard boiled eggs; fresh fruit; protein-rich foods including low-fat dairy such as cheese sticks, yogurt tubes and flavoured milk poppers and lots and lots of water, which should always be the drink of choice for children over sugar-laden fruit juices and soft drinks.
Main image via beautyandbananas.blogspot.com and secondary image via www.pixabay.com.