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.

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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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