Tuesday, October 19

School parents - I need your honesty - please.

I'm in a bit of a quandry at present.  I've been internally wrestling these demons for some months - now I'm asking you to read, contribute and spread the word, I'd love as much feedback as possible to something that is burning at my insides.  It bothers me.  A lot.

The lunchbox quandry.   Try as I might to fill Eloise's lunchbox with healthy, yummy treats she yearns for the MSG laden, packaged food some of her friends bring to school.   And I'm sure this is normal - so I have compromised and we're doing laughing cow cheese with plain watercrackers or rice crackers, boxed sultanas (what a rip off but I digress...) and packaged plain popcorn (again a rip-off) on occasion.

She eats all her lunch, she doesn't really complain - I'm very lucky in that respect but I've noticed kids walking around the school with sweets, chocolate and the like and flavoured drinks.  We have flavoured/coloured milk on our canteen list.

Now don't get me wrong - I know not every kid reacts to additives/colours/flavourings/sugar etc. but I'm sure many kids who do..  I'm not a total purist when it comes to food - my kids have sweets, chocolates, we even go to McDonalds on occasion like everyone else - but I think those foods are best for after school and weekends.

I don't expect everyone to bake either - that's a bit ridiculous - but surely yoghurt, fruit, crackers, popcorn, boiled eggs, sandwiches are accessible to most?  I totally get the pick and mix mentality - because I make up lots of snacks in advance in ziplock bags because I like to do that too.

We have a wonderful PBEL program (Postive behavior engaging learners) at our school which encourages and rewards positive behaviours and procedures in place so the teachers aren't spending so much time dealing with the misbehaviours and focusing on teaching.  Surely sugar, chocolate, additives must play in this too?

Is it reasonable to cut out chocolate, sweets, flavoured drinks (i.e. flavoured drink and flavoured milk) from school lunches?

Am I being oversensitive?  Sensible? Silly?

Are the lunchboxes you pack dependent on what your kids want, what you want them to have or maybe what they will actually eat?

The only directive we have as far as food at our school is nut-free.  What does your school have?
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21 lovely comments:

Natalie- Mini Gourmets on October 19, 2010 at 3:06 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I was only thinking this the other week Liss.

I helped out at Kindy and was doing stuff in the Kindy playground and i watched the bigger kids (so year 1-6s) eating morning tea. Everything was packet stuff.

So think chips etc

I was pretty disappointed.

Our school has the traffic light system for its canteen so the food coming out of there is generally healthy but you cant control what the parents put in lunches.

I accept some parents are time poor so snacks like that are good for them.

Emily has had reactions to additives so I am pretty strict but we do allow treats (of course!)

For Emilys lunches I always put sandwiches/crackers for her lunch. Then she gets something like fruit/yoghurt and then something sweet we have made (so a couple of home made biscuits, cake, slice).

I always tell her that if she brings home the sandwich and the treats are eaten, they are taken away. Example was that hubby made her lunch on Monday and he put in a packet of tiny teddies (a sometimes treat at home). I wanst happy but I was just happy that hubby helped out (I was sick as a dog) Anyway, the tiny teddies were eaten, and only half the lunch so I said to hubby, no more tiny teddies.

In kindy the teachers do ask that we pack healthy lunches but I KNOW this isnt the case. Some are packed with packet junk food, full of additives. And they arent that strict about it.

I guess Peer Group pressure hasnt hit so we havnt had nagging about things in her lunch box.

Its so hard.....

PinkPatentMaryJanes on October 19, 2010 at 3:19 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

My daughter's now in year 5 and happily eats her lunch every day. I either bake mini quiches, pizza scrolls or fritattas for her lunch and also give her purchased crackers and a home-made cupcake, muffin or sweet treat. She also has a fruit break at 10am with fresh fruit.

She never really asked for purchased items - and if she did I don't think she was that keen on them. She now knows that on Sundays we'll bake together for her lunch for the week and really enjoys that.

School's such a long day, kids really need as much nourishment as they can to sustain their bodies and brains over the day. It takes a little time on the weekends preparing -but we do it together so it's bonding time.

There are the kids at school who have the pre-packaged stuff, but luckily my daughter just covets the ones who have the sushi and avocado wraps!

Phew - rant over.

Natalie- Mini Gourmets on October 19, 2010 at 3:31 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]


owh I really REALLY hope my daughter is like that. I love your idea of baking on the sunday for the week.

Im lucky that my girl only does 2 days a week kindy at the moment so I dont have to be that imaginative but next year, 5 days a week. I will be searching for LOTS of great ideas and I love your ideas of fritattas and mini quiches etc. They sound YUM!

Bec said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

What do I pack?
A sandwich ~ Meat or Egg or when really pushed for time vegemite or Jam.
2 pieces of fruit, wether that be some strawberries, a whole apple or Banana or a tub of tinned fruit in natural Juice.
Yoghurt (when he's in the mood)
And a pre packaged snack bar More often one of those Aldi fruit bake bars.
Sometimes cookies or popcorn (pre packaged)

And water, or if I am feeling very generous a 100% juice popper.

I am very content with what I pack my son and I would be more than willing to give a serve to anyone who felt that I was doing my child a disservice.

I run a School Canteen in QLD, and we have stricter guidelines than NSW (We stock slushy's that are Amber in QLD and Green in NSW same product just we have tighter rules)
I try and keep the menu mostly green.
Flavoured Milks ie Breaka (200ml fresh) and Calciyum (200ml fresh, not sure if you have that in NSW) are both green here.

It is very important for children to get enough Calcium and these drinks help achieve that.

I work and live in a low socio economic area and some of the children who attend our school, don't have breakfast, are lucky to be even sent with lunch and I don't even want to imagine what they eat for dinner!!

For those kids, their parents aren't going to give a rats backside about any 'guidelines' issued by the school or the P&C.
Those parents who do care, will send their kids to school with a nutritious lunch no matter the guidelines.

And I've found those parents who know their kids have issues with foods are very careful with what they are allowed to have and what they can buy from the canteen.

So in essence I agree with you but I don't see that imposing rules on families is going to help anyone.

Zoey @ Good Goog on October 19, 2010 at 3:44 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I don't have a school age child but the topic is close to my heart so I thought I'd jump in anyway.

I just don't think it's that difficult. When I was in early high school I was put on a diet which excluded dairy, sugar and acidic foods (like oranges, tomatoes etc) due to food intolerance. And while it wasn't always easy for me to be surrounded by kids eating other things my mum had no problem making me a whole range of lunch and snack foods that were yummy and healthy.

I do tend to have a 'anything in moderation' approach to food so Riley isn't completely sugar/additive free. But some things I don't get. Like cordial. Why? If you read the ingredients the second highest ingredient is sugar. I just don't think it's necessary when you could just offer water or alternatively watered down juice.

And as far as snacks go, although she is an avid biscuit fan (mostly rice crackers) she gets almost as excited about celery as she does about chocolate. Not quite, I mean she is my child after all!

Zoey @ Good Goog on October 19, 2010 at 3:47 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

And don't even get me started on the whole kids need dairy for calcium thing ;-) It's well established that calcium is extraordinarily difficult to absorb from dairy and that childrens' bone health is determined by the amount of green vegetables they eat and the amount of exercise they get.

Mim from Melbourne said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

My son is starting 4yo kinder next year (an all day program) and I'm already stressing about what to pack in his lunchbox. He was going to go to 3yo kinder this year (at a different centre) and there was a page long list of stuff that was not allowed as snacks. Basically everything he ate was on that list! No yoghurt (too hard to take off the lids apparently), no pre-packaged anything, no chocolate, no juice (not that he has that ever) ... and the list went on. I completely freaked out as to what I was going to send with him. He didn't end up going to 3yo kinder for other reasons, but not having to stress over his snacks was a relief.

I work 40+ hours a week, drive 3 hours a day and have a husband who works 60 - 80 hour weeks. We manage healthy dinners most nights, but if we go out of the house on the weekends my ds often has pre-packaged food or fruit as snacks. We simply do not have the time for baking that often and when there are only 3 of us in the house baked goods are a temptation we don't need. AND my ds eats SO much food so it's hard to fill him up quite often meaning he needs a variety of food options.

I do not think a lunchbox rule list will help, in fact it will just stress out parents further. All those things that you mentioned are ok in moderation. For the parent who is super stressed and just needs to put food in their child's lunchbox those things are ok. You don't know if it's a once a month thing which it could be. Sure there are parents who put those things in the lunchbox every day and then it's an issue, but a list of rules probably won't stop them anyway.

A constructive way to encourage good lunches could be a school lunch cookbook as a fundraiser or putting lunch recipes in the school newsletter or something along those lines.

Corrie on October 19, 2010 at 3:52 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

oh no I have all of this ahead of me! I know keira's canteen is very healthy next year and they bake in there and make lots of healthy treats, frozen fruit etc but I hope we don't get bad influences from other kid's lunchboxes as I plan to keep it as healthy and homemade as possible! I can't believe kids would have lollies and chocolate!!!!


Christie - Childhood 101 on October 19, 2010 at 4:23 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Liss - could you offer to write something for the school newsletter offering suggestions for easy snack ideas, including the healthier pre-packaged options - popcorn, yoghurt, fruit in natural juice, cheese sticks, etc, whatever is most readily available in your local area? Just an idea as I truly think it is largely about parents being time poor and guilt ridden so they choose the path of least resistence.

Liss on October 19, 2010 at 4:33 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Thanks for all the responses so far!

I do contribute to the school newsletter fortnightly with a lunchbox legend recipe specifically re-formatted for the school. I also prepare the lunchbox legend x 30 so a class can taste-test (ie. take the recommendation home).

As I said, it's not something I've just started considering, it's been a long-held niggle in my brain.

I agree that not everyone is going to follow the guidelines/policy and policing lunchboxes is something that staff just don't have time to do.

I think that introducing a policy particularly with new kids starting school each year - they have mostly come from a more strict lunchbox/food environment of preschool where they do have the staff ratios to check... it can't hurt can it?

Most healthy choices are less expensive too, but we are living in a convenience world (hand up: guilty!) For me, it's about planning.

Super Sarah on October 19, 2010 at 4:53 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I completely agree with you Liss that most healthy choices are less expensive. We are on a really tight budget and I have found it much easier to stretch to homebaked snacks rather than the expensive prepackaged variety. BUT I totally get that most parents don't have the luxury of time to hand bake or prepare nutricious snacks all of the time. I think a clear policy on what is accepted is a great way forward. Just like Zoey said, hullo, cordial? Thankfully we are all big water drinkers in the White household and my elder daughter has tried fizzy drinks once or twice but really doesn't like the bubbles!

Linda Woodrow on October 19, 2010 at 7:39 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I think marketers have an awful lot to answer for. I've been doing a "Muesli Bar Challenge" baking every school week this year - baking something fast, cheap, easy and healthy enough without getting obsessive about it. And my reviewers - all very normal school age kids - every time rate the home baking as preferable to the prepackaged stuff. An ad I saw early in the year for LCMs, that blatantly stirred up fear of being unpopular, and absolutely falsely claimed "healthy" set me off. Luckily this generation of kids are learning to be skeptical about advertising, but I think we need to support this. I know parents are busy, but the idea of helping kids do some Sunday baking and make their own lunch box treats is a great way to spend the legendary "quality time".

schwester said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I do agree that whilst we all have varying diets at home, it's good for the kids to have some consistency and guidelines at school to go by. At Maya's kindy they're not allowed to bring chocolate, cakes, biscuits or even juice in their lunchboxes, unless it is a party or someone's birthday. The kids accept this as the norm, and so there are rarely any issues about it - plus, there is less lunch-box envy going on!

MonetPaisley on October 19, 2010 at 10:11 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

hmmmm, a sandwich made with rye bread (glad my kids don't complain about that) I usually try to include some protein in the sandwich such as cheese, meat or Peanut butter (not a nut free school and all luches are eaten inside) Vegetable sticks, carrot, celery, red capsicum and cucumber with hommus and avocado. rice cakes or corn thins with honey. sometimes popcorn (popped in the frypan at home)sometimes corn chips and dip, always plain corn chips. LOts of fresh fruit, watermelon, kiwi, mango apples pears. WATER! occasionally we will make some muffins or some rumballs and occasionally there are some yummy leftovers. I find that keeping the sugar to a minimum and upping the protien helps her cencentrate and last all day without falling to pieces. (I am guilty of the odd packet of tiny teddies and sometimes I chuck in a museli bar but find these come back home anyway)

Mishelle on October 19, 2010 at 10:33 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

My kid's school has a policy AGAINST chocolate, candy and chips in lunches. The school cut all of that and pop from it's cafeteria and lunchboxes to promote good food. Between that and the no peanut ban it makes lunches pretty the same in my world. My kids don't particularly like sandwiches so I serve a lot of crackers and cheese blocks, fruit and veg as well as some chicken/meat pieces.

It can happen, my school has managed it but it is a small school in the armpit of my province run by a different school board than the rest of the province (my kids go to a french school in an english province) a normal sized school might be a little harder to promote the change.

ps- the ban makes Halloween a bit easier for Moms - you can't send the sweets to school they trick or treat for.. it's just not allowed.

Emma Louise on October 20, 2010 at 2:41 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

This topic is driving me mad!

At my son's school, there are no rules. At the next school along in town, they have rules for snack and lunchboxes. My child was a great eater until he started school. Now he just feels annoyed every day that he gets sent with homemade food instead of Jammie Dodgers and fizzy drinks.

My son has autism and ADHD which are both aggravated (in his case) by certain food additives, so it is vitally important that he eats healthily if he wants to learn. I do not think it is difficult to put together a healthy lunchbox, but it does take a little pre-planning and thought.

We menu plan for meals anyway, so now we have just added my son's school snacks to our plan. So each week he has the same thing on Monday etc. He likes that, his autism makes him crave familiarity. But I can't compete with prepackaged snacks that come in a variety of different colours with tastes that were developed in a lab. It is so saddening, but I'm not giving up. I am currently lobbying his school to at least provide some guidelines to parents reagrding snacks and lunches. I love the idea in an earler comment about a fundraiser with health recipes. Fab blog by the way, loving it! Best wishes, Emma

Cate on October 20, 2010 at 11:59 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Lunch boxes have been a big bone of contention in my house for a very long time.

I have a child with Prader Willi Syndrome - (those of you who don't know it is a genetic condition and the children are always hungry - they actively seek food, steal food,and think about food all the time!!) I always had to make sure that a) my child had what I thought was enough (though there were always those that questioned me when he stole food - not his fault!!) and b) that it was healthy!

Then along came his twin brothers - the fussiest eaters you will ever see in your life! All healthy snacks and food literally went out the window in regards to them. If I sent with them what I sent to school with their brother - it would all come home untouched. I had to relent - and pack them a very different lunch, that yes included all those high sugar, high fat ingredients that my other child was denied. It was do this or they starved all day (if they couldn't convince a friend to share with them!!)

Lunches are very, very tricky. I will never forget when I was growing up my brother used to regularly throw his lunch over a fence on the way home, a fence where he knew there was a dog! One day the dog's owner followed him home and presented his lunch to my mother!

I think the important thing is to realise that kids need something in their bellies while at school. Obviously don't load the whole box with crap - but if it means they are eating something as opposed to nothing, moderation cannot hurt.

If you are interested in finding out more about Prader Willi Sydnrome feel free to contact me.

ginchyworld on October 21, 2010 at 8:49 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

It's a slightly moot point here, because there is the school lunch option.

However, there is a simple lunch box policy in place. No nuts, no kiwifruit (I'm assuming there are currently kids with those allergies in the school), no chocolates, cakes, or sweets. Biscuits are OK, but they have to be plain, no chocolate, cream or jam. Apart from that it's free reign.

This doesn't cover all the prepackaged stuff, it's still possible to send a wildy unhealthy lunch, but if you were going to do that, you'd probably be choosing the school lunch option anyway.

FWIW Bella has a very boring school lunch every day, vegemite and cheese sandwich, piece of fruit and a cheesestring (I've tried all other kinds of cheese, cutting shapes from the cheese she has in her sandwich, portion controlled grown-up cheese, and the only thing that gets eaten is the cheese string). Morning tea is usually a plain biscuit and a piece of fruit or some dried fruit. She gets given a piece of fruit or vegetable as afternoon tea, and I think they also get given a drink of milk.

So yeah, what goes in the lunchbox is definitely a combination of what she will eat vs what I want her to have. If I send the wrong things, she'll go hungry, and that is worse for her than eating something less healthy.

PlanningQueen on October 22, 2010 at 12:40 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Liss super work on the take home taste test - really love that idea. I know exactly what you are battling with. Our school without consultation outside of the P&F, outsourced the canteen to Subway! We are now having to implement a survey to get it out and get the canteen back to healthy food (they were selling chocolates!!!!).

I have to say that I am surprised by what goes into the lunch boxes at my kids school (Canteen is only two days a week). My eldest son trades my homebaked goods for prepackaged muesli bars and the like. I live with the tag on the non fun mum and continue to pack a nutritious lunch box. I just wish the school would mandate more about what goes into lunch boxes like they do at our kinder.

You are not being silly or over the top, it is hard to take.

Anonymous said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I am a primary school teacher and have seen loads of kids sent to school with the most unhealthy food you could imagine- I recall one child being sent with a large packet of chips and a large bottle of soft drink for the day (which i personally believe is child abuse... but anyway)... it's important that canteens stock healthy stuff because if there are loads of unhealthy foods there, they WILL buy them if you give them money to spend...

but honestly nothing beats the influence from home... if you are a healthy fit/non obese parent who eats well/exercises and takes care of yourself and you teach your child to do the same thing.. well nothing can beat that.... YOU as parents are the strongest influence in your children's life... if you are overweight and eat lots of treats/rarely exercise, it's natural to assume your child is going to be the same....

Lisa on October 24, 2010 at 12:33 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Here in Montreal, Canada we get notes home from school if what we provide isn't nutritious enough! Thankfully I have not had one but it does freak you out a little. My friend got one because she sent jello/jelly and you cant have that because sugar is the second ingredient. It has to be the 4th or more! There is no canteen but you can preorder hot healthy lunches for your children which would save the stress for many non baking working parents. $4 a day.


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