MODERN parents are getting healthier with their kids’ packed lunches, swapping old favourites like ham sandwiches and cartons of juice for hummus, smoothies and even sushi.
Eighty nine per cent insist their children get a better quality meal packed for school than they ever did.
But getting your child to eat what is inside their lunchbox is no easy feat.
Despite objections from her two daughters, Daisy, 13, and Anya, ten, Becky Dickinson, 49, refuses to budge on what she lets her daughters eat at school.
The writer says she would rather send her girls in with dirty uniforms than let them have an unhealthy lunch.
Becky, who has an older son Jonas, 16, and lives in Bideford, Devon, with her partner, a kitchen and bathroom fitter, says: “Anya’s primary school doesn’t provide school dinners after year two so she always takes a packed lunch.
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“Daisy’s school does have a canteen but the options are unhealthy like chips and sausage rolls.
“My kids have described my packed lunches as gross, embarrassing and boring.
Fruit and veg
“I don’t care because I’d rather send them to school with stains on their uniform and unbrushed hair, than an unhealthy meal.
“Their lunches typically include a cheese, Marmite, or hummus sandwich, vegetable sticks and an apple and banana.
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“Or, I’ll make a batch of pasta and chuck in tomatoes, olives, spinach, and peas.
“Only now and then will I let them have a bag of crisps — never sweets or chocolate.
“It isn’t that I’m anti-treats per se, they are allowed some at home, in moderation, but I don’t eat sweets or chocolate with my lunch, so why should they?
“A treat should be just that — not part of a regular diet at the expense of fruit and veg.
“I hope that one day my kids will realise I have their best interests at heart.”
When Daisy came home from school in year three with a sticker for “healthy eating”, she was unimpressed.
Becky recalls: “She told me she’d rather have a packet of crisps than a sticker.
“But as a society, junk food and damaging ultra-processed foods are becoming the norm.
“Figures show that in the UK just over ten per cent of four and five-year-olds are obese, rising to more than 23 per cent by age ten to 11.
“This isn’t about body-shaming, it’s about protecting our kids.
“The links between obesity and illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes have to be taken more seriously, for all our sakes.
“The NHS is already cracking under pressure, it simply can’t cope with the rising tide of chronic health conditions, many of which could be prevented by lifestyle changes.”
As well as believing that good nutrition must start at home, Becky says it is also the schools’ job to promote healthy eating.
She says: “Good nutrition is fundamental to children’s well-being and schools should also be supporting this.
“I don’t agree with seizing food from a child’s lunchbox, but I support healthy-eating policies.
“After all, no teacher wants to be dealing with 30 kids on a sugar rush.
“I’d also like to see more emphasis on food education and supporting parents to make cheap, nutritious, easy meals.
“The earlier children adopt healthy eating habits, the better.
“My packed lunches may not win me any popularity points but my kids will thank me in the future.”
But mum Jo Dunbar argues that mums who pack lunchboxes with organic vegetables don’t always have their kids’ best interests at heart.
Jo, 40, who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her partner Chris, 41, an IT manager, and their two sons, Will, nine, and James, seven, says: “Parents who cram lunchboxes with organic veg and avoid sugar at all costs are doing it more for bragging rights than for their kids’ wellbeing.
“Which children want to dine on nothing but pomegranate seeds and four different varieties of vegetables every day?
“I give my boys the fuel to learn so I pack bagels, rolls or sometimes even a mini pork pie as a treat.
“While seeded or wholemeal bread may be healthier, I know if I send those into school they won’t get eaten.
“I want my sons to enjoy mealtimes, not gnaw sadly on a stack of vegetable sticks.
“My lads are healthy young boys, they need more energy than a pot of hummus and some cucumbers can offer.
“I’m not cramming my kids’ lunchboxes — and rotting their teeth — with sweets and chocolate, but there’s nothing wrong with a bag of mini cookies or a brownie.
“My sons’ school trusts parents to pack suitable meals.
“No one has ever tried to remove an item from my sons’ lunches, but I’d be straight up there if my decisions on nutrition were being questioned.”
Jo also says making children eat vegetables is plagued with problems:
“I always serve vegetables at home, but force-feeding children broccoli is not my style,” she explains.
“Parents know their children best, so I believe I’m the right person to decide what my kids eat.
“In the past, both my boys have had a school dinner but often picked the sandwich option — it’s cheaper for me to make them a packed lunch instead.
“If I pack a pot of grapes or berries, James will eat them but Will is less keen.
“Ultimately, I want them to eat their whole lunch so they have plenty of energy for the afternoon.
“Will isn’t the biggest fruit fan but he’ll tolerate apples and bananas.
“Now, we have an agreement that I’ll send him with a cookie or cake bar, but he must eat his fruit.
“We have had plenty of dinner table battles over salads and fruit desserts or when mushrooms appear on his plate.
“At home, I tend to make crowd-pleaser dinners that fill the children up.
“Burgers feature, as do classics like toad in the hole and pasta bolognese.
“There are snacks and cakes and puddings too.
“I believe homemade treats are a bit better than shop-bought, so I make crumbles with custard plus cakes and traybakes.
“I want my sons to grow up recognising what a balanced meal is — feeding them nothing but Wotsits isn’t right, but neither is calling sunflower seeds a snack.
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“I know some parents who issue a ban on various types of so-called junk food or fast food.
“You can bet their kids will be the ones scoffing chocolate, sweets and crisps at the first sniff of independence.”
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