9 deep issues of a healthy lunch box
This week the ABC published an article, 'What's in our kids lunch boxes'?
It’s been preying on my mind.
Schools from differing socio-economic backgrounds suburbs were visited in the same city in Victoria to see what was inside childrens' lunch boxes.
What they found isn't too surprising but was deeply concerning (see images below).
Briefly, here's what they found;
- 'Not a lot of difference' in terms of healthiness between the suburbs according to nutritionist Mandy Sacher. I don’t agree. The lunch boxes in Broadmeadow (lower socio economic suburb) included more sugar, processed and refined foods, potentially causing a greater impact on childrens digestion, hormones, brain function and blood sugars, setting them up for behavioural issues, lower immunity, developmental delays, irritability, mood swings and more.
- Most kids, independent of school or suburb, went to school with a bread sandwich as their main lunch item with Vegemite or ham being the preferred fillings in the wealthier suburb, compared to Nutella in the poorer suburb.
- Overall, 'the sample suggests the challenge of packing an interesting and nutritious lunch box is universal'.
- The emphasis given in the article was that not enough good quality protein is being given to children. I also saw that not enough healthy fats (needed by every cell in every body), nutrients generally and fibre (for feeding a healthy microbiome) are sadly lacking.
Yes, it may be just a snapshot of one city and a couple of schools at a point in time, but I think it's probably a snapshot of society generally.
Lunch is only one meal in the day. Does it really matter? YES. It makes up a third of our daily food intake.
And we know for many, breakfast is not going to be too different in terms of the few (if any) nutrients growing children are getting i.e. a bowl of highly processed cereal with milk or toast and vegemite! Kids get home from school tired and hungry (needing real food i.e. nutrients), and make poorer choices around homework, relationships and more. Then let's assume dinner is meat and some veg - awesome. But... It's NOT enough.
Snapshot of lunch boxes from Broadmeadows.
snapshot of lunch boxes from Brighton (read the article for lunch box details)
Children are growing, developing and DEMANDING every type of nutrient for their brains, hormones, immunity and so much more and they're not getting enough of what they need - no matter where they live.
The ABC's "universal snapshot" shows in images that our children are under nourished i.e. they are potentially 'malnourished'. Sandwiches and packet foods are not enough.
How can they be expected to perform at school and in life when the fuel tank is empty?
I fear for this generation and the generation to follow them. It makes me sad.
I know you're aware of this and doing great things in your home to nourish yourself and your families but... in todays world to get kids eating a good lunch is hard. Even for the healthiest of us, including me - irrespective of wealth.
After making lunch boxes for 10 years (where did that time go) - I know!
And now as they've got older and their peers are so much more influential in their choices, it's harder again.
It's one thing to know what makes a good nutritious lunchbox, another getting kids to eat it especially when their buddies are opening up packets of 'food' and munching on vegemite sandwiches, and 'no-one wants to swap their lunch with you!' OR they just won't eat the healthy 'stuff' and are fussy eaters. It's easy to relent. But that's like saying to them it's 'okay' and it's not. Every now and again is okay - not most of the time.
Which is WHY as parents and carers, it's important to stay strong in encouraging our children to eat well in their early years.
I think of it as my gift to them and that one-day, they’re going to be grateful for all those ‘weird’ foods in their lunch boxes (fingers crossed).
In saying that, an unhealthy lunch box is not about lazy, un-financial or ill-informed parenting.
It's a symptom...
It's a symptom of deeper issues at play;
- After a while kids will crave simple carbohydrates and sweet foods usually found in packets laden with additives and refined sugars.
- Kids palates and microbiomechanges making it more likely for them to make the unhealthier choice and refuse their veggies or meat.
- When children are deficient in key nutrients for example, the texture of some foods is physically very hard for them to tolerate and yet they’re labelled as ‘fussy eaters’.
- Life is full. We feel we have little time to prepare healthy lunch boxes.
- It's hard to know what truly is healthy for our kids and what's not?
- A healthy lunch box isn't always seen as a priority in society.
- Packet food for breakfast and lunch boxes is big business. And their marketing campaigns are hard to ignore and don't have our wellbeing in their best interest.
- As parents, carers, teachers and leaders we are not being taught or shown what healthyis. Traditionally this knowledge was originally passed down from one generation to the next - and we learnt it all before the 'a-pill-for-an-ill' mentality took over. As women and men moved from the home (farm) into the workforce and convenience foods became a 'saviour', this fundamental knowledge has been lost.
- Generally, eating good, nutrient rich food isn’t seen as a priority or a necessity.
Making time for preparing good food now is better than making time for sick kids, doctors, specialists, medication and the slippery slope into auto immunity and chronic illness later.
Perhaps by bringing awareness to these deeper issues / thoughts it will make it easier next time you’re preparing lunch boxes in the heat of the busy morning.
And if your children refuse to eat your healthy lunch box, don’t give up, there is a good reason for it. Rather find someone you know who understands the deeper issues or contact me for a complementary initial discussion to hear more about how we will get them enjoying a wide variety of foods and so much more.
It’s a complex issue. Strong social leaders like chef Pete Evans and also Sarah Wilson (I Quit Sugar), with massive international audiences, have tried to change what ‘healthy’ looks like in our schools at a government level, with only limited success.
But is it totally up to the government? Of course not - we need to be aware of the deeper issues and take responsibility ourselves.
It starts in our homes, at our tables and in our hearts.
Think about real food - clean, natural, real ...
Let’s bring back healthy lunches.
And for simple ideas on how to save time and pack a healthy lunch box, with loads of nourishing, delicious recipes, a reminder to check out my 'Lunch box rescue' ebook.
As a Mother, Scientist, Business Owner and Wife I understand how full life is. It is my passion to work with women to simplify the overwhelm we often carry in managing it all while still nourishing our families and ourselves. Simply. Naturally. Contact me here for a complementary call. Why wait?