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School workshops being organised to inform parents how to make packed lunches 'less unhealthy'

By Charlotte Smith

Lessons are being organised at schools to inform parents on how to make their children's packed lunched "less unhealthy". A study by University of Leeds revealed that lunches made at home "rarely meet school food standards" and were typically found to mostly contain unhealthy snacks.

The research also showed that about a half of lunchboxes included fruit while only a fifth included vegetables, resulting in just 1.6 per cent in the study being deemed nutritious enough. Sandwiches were found to generally be made with white bread and filled ham, though many others were also filled with jam or Marmite, The Times reports.

In 2015, mandatory rules were introduced for hot school dinners, but there hasn't been any similar rules regarding packed lunches.

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In the study, the packed lunches were measured against the standards that apply to cooked school lunches, which must include vegetables, protein and dairy, and limit sweet snacks and drinks to be deemed to nutritious enough.

More than 100 schools are expected to be enrolled onto a School Food Matters scheme over the next five years, which is said to offer a "menu of support" to boost children's diets, including workshops for parents on making good packed lunches.

Founder and chief executive of the School Food Matters, Stephanie Slater, said: "The Leeds study has shown that packed lunches rarely meet the school food standards and in our work in schools we regularly see lunchboxes filled with crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks. We’re supporting schools to put together a packed lunch policy and workshops for parents so they know what to include in their child’s lunchbox."

Sandwiches were found to generally be made with white bread and filled ham, though many others were also filled with jam or Marmite (Pixabay)

She added that having a clear policy in place meant school staff are not forced to effectively become 'packed lunch police' which she said "creates tensions" between schools and families. "But the very best way to ensure that children get the variety and the nutrition they need to thrive is to encourage them to eat a hot school meal," said Ms Slater.

Professor Jason Halford of the University of Leeds, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, said: "Promoting more fruit and veg intake at school is difficult if this is not the diet at home. Helping families to pack more healthy lunches is obviously something that should be supported but we need to understand the barriers families face doing this."

The study was highlighted in a World Health Organisation report on obesity and published in the journal BMJ Open, which has monitored packed lunches since 2006.

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Dive Deeper:
Schools holding lessons telling parents how to make 'less unhealthy' packed lunches
Only 1.6 per cent of homemade lunches are deemed to be nutritious enough
HSE reveals how many unhealthy snacks you can have a week - and Irish people are eating way too many
The HSE has revealed how many unhealthy snacks you should limit yourself to per week and Irish people are far…
HSE official calls for ban on convenience store meal deals
Dr Donal O'Shea has said that meal deals in convenience stores promoting crisps, soft drink or chocolate with sandwiches should…
Yes, $5 for lettuce is too much. Government should act to stem the rising cost of healthy eating
The cost of living is on the rise. The recent Consumer Price Index (a measure of inflation of a standard…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Pump up your breakfast — simple ways to improve the nutritional punch of your meal
Aim to have your breakfast contain protein, carbohydrates — focusing on fiber — and a reasonable amount of fat.
TUI, Easyjet, Ryanair, Jet2 and British Airways rules on taking food on board flights
Can you bring food and drink on flights - we take a look at the rules for Brits heading on…
Get all your news in one place