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Parents! How to prepare a perfectly nutritious primary school packed lunch for your kids

Children’s packed lunches have come a long way since the days of Wagon Wheels, Um Bongo and Monster Munch, but what does the perfect primary school pack-up look like?

Loughborough University’s Dr Clare Holley, an expert in healthy eating behaviour in young children, has assembled the ingredients and amounts needed to give youngsters the correct amount of nutrition for their scholastic meals.

The perfect packed lunch, according to Dr Holley, includes a portion of all the main food groups – carbohydrates, dairy, fats and sugars, fruit and vegetables and protein.

And the portion sizes can be judged by using the size of a child’s palm as one serving.

She said: “The best kind of packed lunch will be balanced between the main food groups.

“You need carbohydrates for energy.

“Dairy for calcium – which helps with strong teeth and bones.

“Fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals for a healthy body.

“Low sugar, low salt and low saturated fat to protect teeth, heart and other health. Consider healthy alternative snacks like breadsticks and nuts.

“And finally, milk, water or diluted fruit juice make the best drinks. Avoid fizzy drinks or flavoured waters as they may contain substantial amounts of sugar or be acidic which can lead to tooth decay.”

Dr Emma Haycraft, an expert in children’s eating behaviours, also recommended using dividers to help keep the foods and flavours separate and reduce waste from unnecessary packaging.

And to maintain interest, she added that parents should offer children a wide range of different food, while sticking to the healthy group template.

“But keep it varied,” said Dr Haycraft. “Try a variety of foods in different forms.

“It will make your child more likely to eat not only their lunch, but also a broad diet in general.”

Food labels

  • Fruit: Grapes, apple slices, orange segments, pineapple chunks, banana, kiwi slices, raisins, strawberries, blueberries, plum, pear
  • Vegetables (raw or cooked): Cucumber, lettuce, pepper strips, carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, baby corn, mange tout, broccoli florets, cooked peas or sweetcorn,
  • Carbohydrate (starchy foods): Wholegrain bread, pasta, wraps, potato, rice, pitta bread, cous cous, noodles, crackers, bread sticks
  • Protein: Meat (chicken, ham, beef), fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), eggs (boiled, frittata/omelette), beans (chick peas, kidney beans etc as part of a salad), nuts/seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, and others high in protein), lentils
  • Dairy: Yoghurt, cheese (cottage cheese, cream cheese, cheese portions), milk, fromage frais,
  • Oils and spreads: Unsaturated in small amounts (e.g. olive oil on pasta or salads)

A high resolution version of the lunchbox image is available in the link on the right of the page.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/124

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough was ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. It has been awarded a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which recognises institutions that deliver consistently outstanding teaching that is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

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ChildrenHealth and medicine

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Dr Emma Haycraft

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Peter Warzynski

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