Children's packed lunches 'lack fruit and veg'


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Parents are failing to put enough fruit and veg into their children's packed lunches, health experts have warned.

The School Food Trust, which examined 3,500 packed lunches in England in 2009, says about 40% of lunchboxes do not contain any fruit or vegetables, compared with 10% of school dinners.

It said parents should consider switching to school meals.

Meanwhile, the World Cancer Research Fund has set up a website to give parents advice on healthier lunchboxes.

It says the same sort of changes as those made when TV chef Jamie Oliver championed school dinners are now needed.

It wants parents to ensure their children's packed lunches always contain at least two portions of fruits and vegetables.

'Missed opportunity'

WCRF head of education Kate Mendoza said: "There is no doubt Jamie Oliver helped achieve great things for the food served in school canteens. But as the nutritional content of school canteen meals has improved, the healthiness of the content of lunchboxes has been left behind.

Start Quote

Parents could spend almost eight days a year making packed lunches that meet the national standards for school food”

End Quote Patricia Mucavele, School Food Trust

"It is disappointing that children are going to school with lunchboxes that are not playing their part in helping to encourage the kind of healthy diet that is so important for their future.

"This is why we want to get across the message to parents that including a piece of fruit or using a portion of salad as a filling for a sandwich are positive things they can do for their children's health.

"It can sometimes be difficult for parents to control what their children eat, particularly if they are passing shops on the way home from school or visiting their friends. But parents can influence what is in their packed lunches and the fact that not all of them are doing so is a missed opportunity."

She said they were aiming to advise parents about healthy options - rather than telling them what not to put in as has happened in the past.

Patricia Mucavele, research and nutrition manager at the School Food Trust, which offers its own advice on packed lunches, said, "School lunches are now the most nutritious choice for children and young people.

"Packed lunches aren't as nutritious as school meals - they are typically higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and often contain foods that can't be provided in schools, such as sweets and salted snacks.


  • Butternut squash soup with wholegrain bread
  • Cous cous with roasted vegetables and chickpeas
  • Wholegrain pasta salad with tomatoes, green beans and sweetcorn in green pesto sauce
  • Low-fat cream cheese on wholegrain cracker with grapes
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks
  • Dried fruits

"Making healthy packed lunches that give children the variety they need in their diet takes a lot of time and effort.

"We have previously estimated that parents could spend almost eight days a year making packed lunches that meet the national standards for school food.

"And when you look at how the prices compare, it gives parents wanting to give their children good food, and save time and money, something to think about."

The trust's 2009 Primary School Food Survey, included an in-depth look at the contents of almost 3,500 packed lunches across 135 schools in England.

It found 58% of those with packed lunches had items that could count towards their "five a day" fruit and vegetable target, compared with over 90% of those eating school meals.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    It would help if healthier options were less expensive then all the processed rubbish piled high on special offer at the supermarket. The cost of food - in particular the fresh veg, fruit, dairy and meat is sky high. We don't need any more research to tell us what eat. We need action so that the profits the big supermarkets make from selling rubbish to be put towards discounted healthy food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    My daughter gets free fruit and veg at school. She proudly told me she had eaten 4 apples and a pear today. THAT's why I do not put any extra fruit in her lunch box. I also like to give her fruit for snack when she comes home from school, so she is not too full up before her dinner is served. This always contains veg. I think portion sizes and inactivity are the greatest cause of obesity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Or could it be that fruit & veg are just too expensive. You can shout all day long that people should eat healthily, but when the cost of healthy food is much higher than processed food, what else are parents to give their children.

    Those who claim it isnt expensive, remember you need to eat more fruit & veg to feel full compared to other foodstuffs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I refuse to fill my kids with 'healthy' low fat nonsense and bread (whether wholemeal or not). It is this modern 'healthy' eating that is driving this country into an early grave. Eat NATURAL unprocessed foods and encourage your children to do the same. Why give them tasteless pasta, bread etc when they can enjoy flavoursome foods like eggs, meat, fruit and veg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    My daughter has sandwiches, drink of water, a homemade biscuit or cake and some fruit in her lunch box. Her evening meal contains the portions of fruit or veg she needs. If I was to give her anymore she wouldn't have time to eat it. Just because some children don't have enough in their lunch box you can't judge the parents, as they may give them what they need in the eveing meal.


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