As a mother and a teacher I am constantly amazed and appalled at what parents are putting in their kids' lunch boxes. Chips, processed food and soft drinks seem to be the norm, and you're lucky to find a piece of fruit or a sandwich anywhere. What some parents are passing off as 'lunch' is disgraceful and today I'm pleading with you to stop feeding your kids crap!
Before everyone jumps on me, I know that this isn't everyone. There are lots of parents that send lovely healthy lunches (and I'm not even complaining about a treat or two), but sadly it seems that more and more children are being sent to school with inadequate food and I am struggling to find the justification for why. The effects on attention span and behaviour can't be good when you see what 'fuel' they have been given for the day.
I teach at a variety of primary schools (children 12 and under) in different locations and supervise a lot of eating duties. Here's a few observations I have made over the last few years:
Too many children are coming to school without breakfast.
According to the Red Cross, 1 in 4 Australian children go to school without breakfast. It's now commonplace to see schools offering a free breakfast club. I've even seen teachers who make breakfast in their classrooms for student's who need it.
No fruit or vegetables sent to school at all!
If your child is at an Australian primary school the chances are that they have some form of fruit break, or munch and crunch. This is a fabulous idea (and stems from the point above) where students are given a short break about an hour into the school day where they can snack on fruit or vegetables. It's sad to see how few students are given any fruit.
Once again, many schools are using their own limited resources to provide fruit for the students who don't have any. I often hear the excuse, "They don't like fruit", but the schools that I've seen who provide fruit to those who don't have any will tell you differently. The majority of students offered fruit, choose to take a piece.
With the ABS reporting that only 68% of Australian children (aged 2-18) receiving their recommended intake of fruit and a very sad 5% consuming the recommenced amount of vegetables something needs to change. Fruit and vegetables are one of the cheapest foods to send to school, especially if you buy in season, and there's no excuse for sending none at all.
Many children come to school with no 'real' food.
By real food, I'm talking about something substantial for lunch. A sandwich, a wrap, a roll - anything substantial that will keep them fueled up and ready to learn. What you do find is packets. So many packets. Packets of chips, packets of sugar filled yoghurts, packets of biscuits and sugar filled fruit drinks. For many children this is their ONLY lunch. These are not treats to have after a sandwich, or after their fruit. They are expected to survive the whole day on chips, biscuits and sugar filled drinks. With more than half of all Australians consuming more exceeding the World Health Organization's recommended sugar intake, this is alarming.
Parents are sending cordial and soft drink instead of water
It's not uncommon to find drink bottles full of cordial or even soft drink. Water is all that is needed, especially while at school. Don't let your children fill up on sugary drinks.
Many parents are fooled by marketing
Advertisers are talented people and they do a great job at making us think we are giving children healthy food when in fact it isn't. Yoghurt is one of the worst offenders of this. The pouches look healthy, they have pictures of fruit on them, and throw around terms like 'organic', but almost all of the yoghurt pouches in the supermarkets contain sugar as one of their main ingredients. Pictures of Peppa Pig and Frozen are plastered over all kinds of foods, and often the thinking is that if it's marketed to children it must be good for children. WRONG! These are generally the worst offenders. These ingredient lists below are from food that I commonly see in lunch boxes.
I wish I was making this up. I wish I was talking about the minority here, but I'm not. This is what I see in schools every day. Different schools, different locations, same kinds of crap food. So as a teacher, I plead with you. Stop feeding your kids crap!
Cheap and nutritious lunch box ideas
Sending a healthy lunch for your child does not take long to make and is not expensive. I'm not asking for an amazing lunch, not even a great one. I'd settle for a piece of fruit, a sandwich or wrap of some kind and a bottle of water. I guarantee this will cost the same, if not cheaper than all of the packaged food.The lunches pictured below all cost less than $2.50 to make and took less than 5 minutes to prepare.
Some tips to keep lunches healthy and cheap
Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season and on special. I try not to spend more than $3 a kilo on fruit or vegetables from the grocery store and we always have plenty of options. Today at Coles I was able to find apples, bananas, watermelon, mandarins, carrots, cucumber and grapes, all for under $3 a kilo.
Switch to wholemeal bread or wraps. A loaf of homebrand wholemeal bread is $1.50 from the supermarket and for $3 you can get 10 multigrain wraps. By adding lettuce, tomato, cheese and some sliced meat you will be paying less than $1.50 a sandwich and there are so many varieties you can make depending on your child's tastes.
Make your own fruit, yoghurt and custard pouches. Not only are the store bought pouches full of sugar and other added ingredients, they cost a lot more. By making your own (buy a large greek yoghurt and flavour with real fruit or try this great home made custard recipe ) you can make these for less than 50c each. I use the Sinchies reusable pouches, and they pay for them self within a few weeks.
Do you agree with me? I'd love to hear your comments on this topic. Comment below or pop over to our Facebook page to continue the conversation.
Would you like to win a Sinchies Little Kids Lunchbox Kit?
Sinchies was the first Australian company to make resusable pouches, and now also make reusable sandwich bags and wrap pouches as well. You can find out more about Sinchies on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.
To enter tell us in 25 words or less why you want to win a Sinchies Little Kids Lunchbox Kit and enter below. Australian residents only. Ends 13 May 2016.
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