The Lunch Box Debate
With the latest furore around packed lunches - just 1% meeting the basic nutritional standards apparently; I can't help but feel that as parents we're set for yet another bashing.
I agree wholeheartedly that nutrition is important, and of course the findings of the study were indeed worrying. I also think that it's important to highlight findings like this in order to provoke thought, and indeed change.
But I think we need a bit of a reality check here. Let's assume you've decided (as is your right) to provide a packed lunch rather than opting for school meals.
You have to pack something for your child's lunch that is not only healthy - but something that they will actually eat; and (I think it ought to be acknowledged) that when our children are away from us, we cannot control precisely what they eat and what they don't.
I'll give an example from my own childhood. My Mum was very interested in nutrition, and as such she always packed me a healthy lunch. There were no crisps or chocolate allowed. Instead I had sandwiches (which had to include at least one vegetable, but ideally more than one) and fruit.
Likewise there were no sugary drinks allowed - only fruit juice or water.
However what she couldn't control was what I actually ate. I'm sure you'll all remember the swapping of lunch box items in the dinner hall. More often than not I was able to persuade someone else to swap me my cheese and salad sandwich for half of their strawberry jam one. Likewise I'd frequently spend a little pocket money on sweets or chocolate and so the fruit that my Mum had lovingly packed often didn't get eaten. As a result, of a lunchtime I'd often end up with half a jam sandwich and some penny sweets.
Not the best nutritionally. (Sorry Mum!)
The point being, that even though the study was checking what was in the lunch boxes before and after lunch, it still wasn't necessarily indicative of what had been eaten, and indeed by whom. You couldn't possibly know that unless you were actually observing each child.
I'd also argue that the contents of a child's lunch box is not necessarily indicative of their daily diet. At home it might be a slightly different story. Why? Because at home, parents have a much better chance of encouraging healthy choices - more fruit, more veg etc. We're also able to see what's actually been eaten.
It might be that some parents elect to push harder for healthy choices at breakfast and dinner, but recognise that at lunchtime you really just want to make sure that your child eats something reasonably healthy, but you don't really worry too much as they make up for it with the other two meals a day.
In conclusion I guess that whilst I'm pretty supportive of studies like this, I can't help but feel disappointed by the sensationalism. A child's diet comprises of far more than the contents of their lunch box.
Image credit luckysundae