The nutritional value of school packed lunches often falls way below what is ideal, according to new research.
The study by the University of Leeds, published in the BMJ, provides evidence for school caterers to highlight the benefits of their offering as being far more nutritious than most home-made packed lunches.
The survey found only 1.6% of packed lunches meet School Food Standards. Typically, primary school children’s packed lunches are high in saturated fat, added sugars and salt as well as being low in fruit and vegetables. Key micronutrients such as vitamin C, iron, zinc and vitamin A and fibre fell below the recommended levels.
More than half of school children take a packed lunch to school – yet the current school food standards only apply to school meals. The findings suggest two possible actions. First, promote school meals as a better nutritional alternative to the home-made packed lunch. Second, there’s an opportunity for schools to educate parents and carers, with guidance on healthy packed lunch ideas to improve the overall nutritional content of food provided from home.
If you are looking for help or advice with regards to your school meals/menu/recipes – please email Anna-Maria Holt, our HCPC Registered Dietitian.