I have some scary packed lunch news for you. Not ‘preschooler finds snake in marmite sandwich’ scary – statistically scary.
(Because maths is fun guys!)
Flora has been working with Leeds University to recreate a huge study that was first done 10 years ago, looking at packed lunches in schools. Back in 2006, the research found that only 1% of packed lunches were meeting healthy food standards. So basically, you could have gone into any school hall, and you’d maybe have found one lunchbox that wasn’t crap. In my day, that one would belong to the unpopular kid with the parents who gave him carrot sticks and home made hummus and make him wear faux-leather school shoes from a ‘specialist’ shop. But that was the 80s, and they were harsh.
Forward wind* ten years then, and you would hope that lunch box standards have improved. I mean, we’ve got Jamie Oliver now right?
(We do have Jamie Oliver, that bit’s not wrong, this isn’t some kind of creepy celebrity chef murdering confession.)
Ten years later, despite there now being about approximately 8.3 million pictures on Pinterest of kids’ healthy bento lunch box ideas**, according to Flora’s research, still only 1.6% of lunch boxes are meeting healthy food standards. We look at pictures of mini olive kebabs and strawberries cut into the shapes of individual Mr Men, and then we sigh, pour another glass of wine, and just whack in a jam sandwich, Penguin bar and a bag of Skips.
I told you it was scary. 98.4% of the packed lunches in the research contained too many snacks and sweetened drinks and not enough fruits and vegetables, leading to high levels of saturated fat, non-milk extrinsic sugars and salt and low levels of vitamins and minerals.
Flora is now calling on the government to raise awareness and do more to ensure that children’s nutritional standards for lunch boxes are being met and is working closely with the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon Hodgson MP in order to make sure positive action is taken.
They’re doing practical stuff to, like providing healthy, easy lunchbox recipe inspiration that doesn’t involve staying up half the night trying to sculpt an apricot into a sea creature. You can’t just talk about how bad something is without offering any solutions after all.
Healthy lunch box inspiration
The thing is, that it’s not actually that difficult to put together a healthy packed lunch. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or expensive even, it just requires a teeny bit of thought. (I say this in a totally non-preachy way, as a mother who has made their fair share of jam sandwich lunches, and who has most definitely never sculpted an apricot into anything.)
To get you started, I put together, (yes you guessed it), a Pinterest board of ideas. These are meant to be real ideas though, not just pretty pictures. You can see them all here:
I’ve included a few of my favourite Flora lunch box recipe ideas, but you can see those in full here. Flora also have this handy lunchbox builder, which might be something to print out and stick on the fridge for when you’re lacking inspiration.
I think this approach could work really well with younger children especially. My kids always loved doing that whole ‘pick and mix’ style eating. Quite often when they were younger they would make me write out menus of things we could have for tea, and then they’d tick the boxes next to the items they wanted. (They were very demanding. Normally it meant we ended up with random combinations like pasta, sweetcorn, cucumber, bread and grapes.)
How do you feel about the healthy packed lunch statistics? Would you put yourself in that 98.4% or do your kids love nothing better than munching on grilled chicken and raw broccoli?
If you have any healthy lunch box recipes that go down well in your house, please do leave a comment and let me know!
*Everyone at home gets MAD when I say forward wind, and says it should be ‘fast forward’, but you REWIND don’t you? Why can’t you forward wind?
**Made up fact.
Sponsored post. Sunshine egg image. – Fusionacs/shutterstock.