In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s back to school and back to the same old news stories. Packed lunches are back in the press.
I do a lot of home cooking with fresh ingredients, avoid salt and sugar where possible and provide plenty of fruit and veg when catering for my children. In fact, tonight they had a minestrone that included tomatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots, potatoes and cannellini beans. However, they are allowed treats, and we do have Fish Finger days when we’re so busy doing other stuff that there simply isn’t enough time before bed to incorporate the school run, an hour-and-a-half of cooking, homework, reading, play, bath and bedtime story. All to say, they have a very good diet probably 90% of the time.
We went on a picnic today with lots of other mums and children from the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club. In my childrens’ lunch boxes there were pitas stuffed with salami and then pieces of cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, humus, carrot batons, blueberries and…dum, dum, dum cocktail sausages. That’s my idea of the best lunch box. Salami is fatty and salty and ditto for cocktail sausages. They love them however (as do I) but eat just as much of the good stuff as these more ‘dubious’ items. It’s about common sense and balance. Would I have have been reprimanded about these items in a school lunch box? I doubt it. However it would have been a massive tut tut if I’d included a packet of crisps or some chocolate buttons. There is an air of double standards and nowhere more so than school dinners.
I find it rather ludicrous that there are so many guidelines about school packed lunches; the dos and don’ts.
Sofia, my eldest, has a school lunch every day. We had a talk about the catering at her school before she started. They talked about all the hidden veg they included in their meals, and it was apparent they provided many healthy items. However, alongside the virtuous stuff, there are puddings such as arctic roll, chocolate brownie and choc ice. There’s also a decent smattering of burgers, pizza and chips on the menu. I haven’t ascertained whether the latter have ever been served together. This would obviously be sacrilege to an Italian (well half Italian) and definitely not the healthiest. I don’t demand that all sweet items or potato-based products are removed from the dinner menu as I know, on the whole, the school dinners are balanced, nutritious and varied. I also know that they are supplemented at home with very good meals most of the time. So why is it acceptable to be reprimanded about the odd packet of Pom-Bears? I’m pretty sure that very few children are being sent to school with nothing but a can of Coke and a few sweets in their lunch boxes. As the fussiest of eaters as a child and very thin, my mum was always delighted if I’d scoffed a Cadbury’s Flake alongside a triangle of sandwich.
My children have some choices regarding food and on quite a few occasions the opportunity to have something they consider a treat – I think it’s important and part of childhood. Do they sit all day mainlining Haribo and Fruit Shoots? No (well apart from when we had ‘movie day’ so that my husband and I could decorate the spare room in a day without childcare)! They LOVE fruit and will always go and help themselves to some from the fruit bowl if they’re feeling peckish (it’s their first port of call for a snack), but equally will pounce on a biscuit if it’s offered. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Common sense and balance…