In which our reluctant hero serves up nine and a half of his five a day.
Food is back on the menu again, or in the news at least, as the biannual “Children’s lunchboxes still unhealthy shock” story resurfaces. According to an article on the BBC and elsewhere, fewer than two in 100 children’s lunches (that would be one in 100 then, Auntie Beeb?) meet the government’s nutritional standards. Children don’t eat enough fruit and veg and prefer crisps and biscuits? Who knew?
While our two are a good way off needing a packed lunch each day, presumably the same guidelines apply to feeding the little people once they’re weaned off milk and relying on solids as fuel. Seems logical, but are we doing it right at home? I do hope so as the shame would be just too much if we don’t.
To test, I decided to look up the governmental guidelines, compare to an average lunch served at our house and smugly show how we are the exceptions to the rule. We’re middle class and have heard of “5 a day” and all that after all so what could possibly go wrong?
OK. Here goes…
1. One portion of fruit and one portion of vegetable or salad every day to be included in packed lunches
Fruit. Tick, tick, tick. No problem with the fruit. The fruit is covered. Veg though? Occasionally a tomato or bit of cucumber may be nibbled at during lunch if there’s a full moon due. Homemade soup is a favourite of our youngest, the eldest rarely touches it. Baked beans and spaghetti hoops count as vegetables too according to the tin so there’s enough here to justify that we provide at least one of each I reckon. Tick.
2. Meat, fish or another source of non-dairy protein should be included every day. Non dairy sources of protein include lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, hummus, peanut butter and falafel
Sadly, by “meat and fish” the guidelines are referring to unprocessed stuff as opposed to turkey twizzlers. I’m guessing wafer thin ham doesn’t count either, so probably a no here. Pulses? You may as well try feeding them poison asides from an inconsistent and erratic relationship with hummus which is either wolfed down or refused in equal measures. We get through peanut butter by the bucketful and as I have just decided that the children are, on balance, probably vegetarian (they love veggie sausages – what more proof do you need?) I’m having another tick here thank you very much.
3. An oily fish, such as salmon, should be included at least once every three weeks
Oily fish? We’ve barely managed to get a portion down in three years let alone every three weeks. Deep fried fish fingers count though, right? It’s bound to be olive oil that they use at the chippy. Tick.
4. A starchy food, such as bread or pasta, rice, couscous, noodles, potatoes or other cereals, should be included every day
Couscous is a no-no due to the texture, and rice is a bit hit or miss too. They’re fine with the rest and we normally buy wholemeal bread or the “best of both” option if white. As lunch normally involves butties or toast, that’s another tick.
5. A dairy food, such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais or custard should be included every day
Yep. Or ice-cream. Probably. Not that this would be a good idea in a lunchbox. Tick.
6. Free, fresh drinking water should be available at all times
Water is always available as we are lucky enough to own a tap despite living in Wolverhampton. It never gets drunk but that’s not a stipulation of the guidelines. Tick.
7. Include only water, still or sparkling, fruit juice, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, yoghurt or milk drinks and smoothies
You’ve missed squash off, spoilsports. We give the little people fruit juice or milkshake occasionally. Half a tick?
8. Snacks such as crisps should not be included. Instead, include nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit (with no added salt, sugar or fat). Savoury crackers or breadsticks served with fruit, vegetables or dairy food are also a good choice
Our two rarely have crisps as if we have any in the house they are stored above head height and mummy knows where they’re kept. Peanuts, yes but salted or not at all but cashews are a big hit with our eldest. Breadsticks and Mini Cheddars they will eat by the skip full, and raisins also but, oddly, no other dried fruit. Close enough. Tick.
9. Confectionery such as chocolate bars, chocolate-coated biscuits and sweets should not be included. Cakes and biscuits are allowed but these should be part of a balanced meal
Chocolate based things are treats if tea has been polished off nicely. Like me, neither of the children are that keen on cake (the little one more so) and we normally go for “healthier” biscuits, if there can be such a thing, like malted milk, digestives or hobnobs. And custard creams. They’ve got custard in and this also satisfies rule five. Tick.
10. Meat products such as sausage rolls, individual pies corned meat and sausages / chipolatas should be included only occasionally
Our two aren’t keen on pastry, but the government is having a laugh if cocktail sausages are on the “banned from daily consumption” list. Without those there would be a fifty percent reduction in our children’s protein intake. And mine. I’m not counting that as a parenting fail as it is blatantly silly. Stupid experts with their facts and logic and stuff. Tick.
So, there you go. We’re not doing too badly, but the difficulty is not necessarily serving the right stuff up but finding the day that the kids are in the mood to eat it. By my maths we scored a massive nine and a half out of ten. Or, using the BBC’s logic, more than nine out of ten. So ten out of ten then. Yay! Tick.
[More details about healthy lunchboxes are here, should you wish to explore further.]