You may not have the best memories of school dinners, but things have changed.
While many parents feel they are giving their children a healthier option with a packed lunch, studies have found that school dinners tend to be better.
A study published in the BMJ Open magazine shows that packed lunches are, on average, nutritionally worse than the meals offered by schools, and the amount of essential nutrients in them decreased between 2006 and 2016.
The study, which analyzed data from 76 schools in England, found that although the overall amount of sugar in packed lunches had decreased, many contained foods that were still high in sugar, salt or fat.
However, some things never change, with the amount of fruits and vegetables barely changing during that decade.
While there is no legislation for packed lunches, leaving parents free to choose what to include in them, in 2006 mandatory rules were introduced in England that govern the nutritional quality of meals served at school.
Fruits, vegetables, starch, protein and dairy should be included in each meal and sweets, salty snacks and sugary drinks are restricted.
The study found that most of the sandwiches were made with white bread and more than half of the lunch boxes contained chips or other salty snacks, and about one in three contained a chocolate chip cookie.
About four out of 10 lunch boxes also contained sugary pumpkin or a carton of fruit drinks in 2016, although this was less than in 2006.
The study, led by the Faculty of Food and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Leeds, concluded: “Packed lunches are still of poor quality with few established standards for school meals.
“Although some children’s packed lunches contain healthy foods, the packed lunches continue to be dominated by sweet and savory snacks and sugary drinks.
“A minority of children eat vegetables or salads and this has not changed in the last 10 years.”
What is your opinion about lunches? Do you prepare a lunch for your child or pay for school dinners? Which do you think is healthier? Let us know in the comments or share your opinions on our Manchester Family Facebook page.
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