Even though they are growing, children need to eat the right amount for their age. Young children will need smaller portions with a choice of different foods and older children who are more active may need much larger amounts of high energy foods.
Eating the right foods also helps to improve children’s concentration, learning and behaviour whilst at school. It also promotes proper physical growth and development, and encourages resistance to infection.
It’s sometimes difficult to get any child to eat the right foods as all of the wrong foods are on hand where ever you turn. That’s why a child’s school lunch should be as nutritious as possible and both parents and the school should promote this and encourage it.
To get your child interested in trying new, try cutting healthy foods into fun shapes and use a variety of small colourful containers. Involving your child in planning his/her school packed lunch will encourage them further to try new foods. You should also give praise, reward stickers etc, if they eat new foods.
School lunches have evolved considerably in recent years, especially since we saw the introduction of free school meals to all Key Stage 1 children in September 2014. Since this change there has been an overhaul in the food that is being served now. It is a mix of much healthier and more balanced food now as opposed to the school lunches that you and I were once eating.
Children benefit from sitting down and eating together at lunch times and it encourages them to try new foods.
Now that the school meals are a more balanced and healthier option you will possibly see a rise in children choosing the packed school lunch from home but with school dinners your child will experience a wider range of foods as there is a change in variety one day to the next.
Due to the change in law, each day the school must offer at least one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables with every meal as well as a combination of high quality meat, poultry and fish.
The nice thing about school dinners is that for special days and celebrations such as Christmas, most schools often hold themed dinners for the children. It is possible for packed lunch children to opt in on these occasions if they want too.
There is no preparation time involved with school dinners as the school provides the menu choices and cook all the food. No input is required from parents which is great when time is limited at home.
Cost is often a concern for parents when deciding on school dinners. However all key stage 1 children (reception, year 1 & 2) now get free school meals. For older children, schools keep cost down as much as possible to ensure school dinners are affordable and value for money.
The upside to providing your child with packed lunch each day is that as a parent you get to control what foods your child eats every day which is perfect if your child suffers with various food allergies.
Making the packed lunch at home means you’re able to take into consideration your child’s likes and dislikes to ensure your child is eating a full meal each day.
Packed lunches can be prepared in the morning or if you are pushed for time they can be made the night before and stored in the fridge. Throughout the day lunchboxes need to be kept cool. Ideally, you should use an insulated lunchbox with built in ice packs or a frozen carton of juice can be put inside to keep food items cool.
Remember, when making your child’s pack lunch you must take into consideration that a lot of schools have banned nuts, this is because some children have nut allergies and children are prone to sharing or swapping foods.