A school packed lunch may sound like a simple meal to prepare, but a simple sandwich and a bag of crisps is no longer considered an appropriate option, according to new guidelines.
Catering Leeds, specialists in food education at Leeds City Council, have released a food policy brochure outlining the healthier choices parents should be making when preparing meals for their youngsters to take to school.
Healthy school lunchboxes
The catering provider has devised a healthy 'packed lunch builder' to help inform parents on what makes a nutritious lunch, with hummus, dried fruit and mange tout among the suggested snacks.
Since December 2015 all school meals must adhere to the School Food Standards, with the lunch box guide designed to meet these government requirements.
The lunch builder instructs parents to choose a main, a snack and two portions of fruit and veg for their child, with a range of options to choose from.
Among the mains are pasta, wholemeal tortilla wraps, tuna and egg, while snack options consist of hummus, rice cakes and plain crackers.
The guide aims to ensure children develop healthier eating habits and get their energy and nutrition from a range of food groups.
It states: "As a general principle, it is important to provide a wide range of foods across the week.
"Variety is key - whether it is different fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses or types of meat and fish.
"Use fresh, sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients, and talk to them about what they are eating.
"Children learn better when they have had a good, healthy lunch."
Eating a balanced diet
The 'lunch builder' is informed from Catering Leeds' Eatwell Guide, which outlines how much of each food group you should be eating to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.
The five food groups include:
- Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates
- Fruit and vegetables
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
- Dairy and alternatives
- Oil and spreads
The guide advises eating fish and beans in favour of red and processed meat, opting for wholegrain or higher fibre carbohydrates, with less added fat, salt and sugar, and consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Snack foods such as crisps, biscuits and chocolate are suggested to only be eaten in small amounts, and fruit juice and smoothies are advised to be limited to 150ml per day.