School dinner or packed lunch?

School dinner or packed lunch?

Healthy eating for kids can be hard but research shows children concentrate better in class after a well-balanced lunchtime meal. What’s the best lunch menu for your child?


School lunches – A hot and healthy meal

  • Time saving. No need to shoehorn food prep into your morning routine.
  • Nutritionally balanced healthy school meals. School lunches are required to provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals and a limited amount of saturated fats, salt etc. Homemade packed lunches rarely contain the same breadth of nutritional value.
  • A good hot meal. When homework or after school clubs and activities mean settling for a short, lighter teatime, it’s good to know they ate well at lunchtime.
  • A social gathering. Studies show that at key times like starting in a new class or school, children prefer school lunches because they can be part of a group activity and make friends.
  • More adventurous. If your child sees friends eating chili con carne or fish pie they are much more likely to give it a go themselves. Packing them off with the same cheese sandwich every day doesn’t encourage a well-rounded eater.


Packed lunches – A homemade healthy alternative

  • Know what they’re eating. Packing food you know your child enjoys avoids hungry days when there wasn’t anything on the lunch menu he or she liked.
  • Save money. School dinners are costed to be as affordable as possible and average £2 a day, but at secondary school children can often buy their own combinations, and the cost soon adds up. Avoid pre-packed snacks and drinks and you will save even more money.
  • No waiting. School canteens often have long queues but packed lunch eaters can sit down straight away.


So what’s right?
Jamie Oliver and the Schools Food Trust have drastically improved the lunchtime experience so it’s worth giving the healthy school meals a try - your children will benefit from varied, hot meals.

If you are sticking with packed lunches, remember:

  • Vary the food daily.
  • Limit salt, sugars and fat.
  • Try to pack some hot food in colder months.


Savvy tip
Try these great ideas to make healthy packed lunches for the whole family.


Pass it on – tips for trying school dinners
Read more about why school lunches are important.

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