Each school year, we pack about 200 lunchboxes per child. With displays like this, it’s easy to think these are foods that are suitable for lunchboxes. But, they really are not!
Lunchbox food is super important – 30-40% of what your child will eat Monday to Friday comes from what you pack in their lunchbox. This means The Lunchbox Effect is a real phenomenon that plays out in classrooms every school day.
Many of the ‘foods’ marketed as lunchbox friendly, perfect for lunchboxes or make back to school easy, contain ingredients that can potentially impact your child’s learning, behaviour, ability to focus, their sleep and even health conditions like asthma and eczema. They may cause headaches and also have a big role to play in energy slumps too. Conversely what you pack in the lunchbox can also help your child’s growth and development as well as their learning, concentration and ability to socialise at school.
I know life is busy and it’s feels really easy to throw in packet foods, but I encourage you to Think of Lunchboxes as an Act of Love.
Every time you pack your child’s lunchbox, ask yourself is this food helping my child’s body or is it not helping their body? Will this food nourish, energise and support their learning for the day? When you think about nourishing food as an act of love, it makes it easier to pack more real food into your child’s lunchboxes.
Surely these lunchbox friendly packets can’t be so bad
Well, you would think not given they are allowed to be sold on our supermarket shelf, right? But let me share with you some real life lunchbox statistics about what the average Australian Lunchbox*
- 1.3 pieces of fruit
- less than 1 serve of vegetables
- 2 packet foods – these are supposed to be sometimes foods
These 2 packet foods on average contain:
- 29 ingredients
- 3.6 tsp of sugar
- 9 additives and preservatives
- approx 36% of these additives and preservatives can be potentially linked to learning difficulty, behavioural problems and hyperactivity.
- almost 150mg of sodium
This means the average Australian lunchbox is likely to contain close to or more than the World Health Organisations recommended amount of free sugars for a child for the ENTIRE day. The George Institute of Australia has also identified Australian’s are eating way too much salt, and by making better choices in the school lunchbox, children could avoid 4g (approx 1 tsp of salt).
Most common lunchbox packet foods are ultra processed
Most common lunchbox food falls into the classification of ultra processed food (UPP) by the World Health Organisation. UPP’s are considered to be key drivers to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
You might also be thinking my child isn’t affected by additives and preservatives so that’s ok. But how do you really know? Just playing devil’s advocate here, when was the last time your children went more than a day without eating foods with additives and preservatives? Something to think about is this –
Dr Loblay of Sydney’s Prince Alfred Hospital says this:
It’s a dose effect – often a little bit is not a problem, a bit more can be a problem, too much can be a problem. But that’s a very individual thing. Each person needs to work out how much is too much for them of which particular additive.
If children are eating on average 9 additives in their lunchbox alone each day, is this a little bit, a bit more or too much? The only way you will know is to become your own Mad Food Science Detective and start asking what’s in my food.
Still not convinced that we need to look a bit closer at these foods? Here’s a statement I found on Victoria’s Better Health Channel.
Most food additives are tested in isolation, rather than in combination with other additives. The long-term effects of consuming a combination of different additives are currently unknown
It’s pretty fair to say the average Australian Lunchbox is doing little to support a child’s learning and health. I explore this and what you can do about it in a lot more detail in my soon to be published book The Lunchbox Effect. The book also includes a review of what’s in my food for over 480 common lunchbox packet foods.
The Lunchbox Effect is due for publication in Feb 2020 – visit thelunchboxeffect.com to learn more and order your copy.
* from data collected from school Food and Waste Reports 2019