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Children's health

12th May 2022

Parents told to stop giving their children jam sandwiches in their lunchboxes

Trine Jensen-Burke

no jam sandwiches

Not healthy enough.

Parents in the UK have been told to stop giving their children jam sandwiches in their school lunches and instead send them in with some healthier lunch options.

This comes following some shocking new research from the University of Leeds, where researchers tracked several schools, and found that just one in 60 meals given to kids is healthy.

The study tracked 18 schools over a decade and found that many children frequently came into school with no fruit or vegetables in their lunchboxes, and instead had things like chocolates and biscuits in there.

In fact, according to the study, just one in five packed lunches contained a vegetable, while only half had a piece of fruit included.

The research also revealed that six in 10 children are regularly eating white bread, rolls and wraps, with popular fillings including jam and Nutella – which contains high levels of sugar.

Many children also went into school with lunchboxes containing crips, which, of course, are high in both fat and salt, and the research found that as many as four in 10 lunchboxes also contained a sugary drink – where the recommendation is that children drink water when thirsty.

Healthy lunch workshops

Realising just how badly the nation’s children are eating, charities and schools are now set to offer workshops to teach parents how to make a healthy packed lunch, and these are already set to go ahead with 100 primary and secondary schools across the UK.

‘The Leeds study has shown that packed lunches rarely meet the school food standards and in our work in schools we regularly see lunch boxes filled with crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks,” says Stephanie Slater, the founder and chief executive of charity School Food Matters, to Netmums.

“We’re supporting schools to put together a packed lunch policy and workshops for parents so they know what to include in their child’s lunchbox.”

She adds:

“With a clear policy in place, school staff don’t have to become “packed lunch police” which creates tensions between schools and families. But the very best way to ensure that children get the variety and the nutrition they need to thrive is to encourage them to eat a hot school meal.”

Professor Jason Halford, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, is keen to stress the need to help families to choose healthier meals for their children, but in a way that does not shame or stigmatise.

“Helping families to pack more healthy lunches is obviously something that should be supported but we need to understand the barriers families face doing this, particularly with the rising prices of perishable foods. We also need to ensure we don’t stigmatise families by shaming.”