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School lunches to support a healthy lifestyle

Just what is a ‘school approved’ snack? We’ve all heard stories of schools sending home snacks that fall outside of accepted guidelines for healthy snacks or lunches but what exactly are those guidelines and why are they in place?

Well the first surprise is that there are actually no general guidelines as to what constitutes a school approved snack, instead the responsibility for setting standards for food brought into school rests with individual schools.

Food provided by the school is a very different matter. In 2015 the government introduced strict, wide reaching guidelines relating to what academy and maintained schools could offer at lunch times and snack times.

This includes provision of free water and the banning of the sale of fizzy drinks and sugary and salty snacks in vending machines. It also stipulates what food groups are offered and how much fruit and vegetables should be available to children.

The overall aim is to encourage a lifetime of healthy eating habits to promote health and help ward off obesity – and, of course, to help prevent tooth decay, which has become a real problem in youngsters.

While some schools choose to enforce a healthy eating environment and tell parents what they can and can’t send in, when it comes to sending in a packed lunch and snack for break time the onus is very much still on the parent to take responsibility.

Coping with picky eaters

This of course may suit many parents horrified that their youngsters may enjoy the same unfettered access to chips and sweets that they did. For others, particularly parents of picky eaters, this can be a real challenge.

School snacks need to be able to withstand temperature changes but also be easy to eat if your child is taking it onto the playground.  Likewise packed lunches need to be practical – and with heating facilities very unlikely to be provided this limits choice.

Of course a protein-based salad with a portion of fruit and a yogurt sounds fantastic but would your child actually eat it? The opposite side of the argument is the hungry child who can’t concentrate because they refuse to eat vegetables.

Parents need to walk a fine line and common sense is all that is really needed. Sugar-packed bags of sweets are going to nothing for concentration and will instead set up the right conditions for dental decay. Fizzy drinks bring nothing of any value to your child’s health, they will however fuel bad bacteria that attacks the teeth. We know this already so these choices are easy to make.

The best advice to follow is from the NHS’s Change4Life campaign, which recommends fruit and vegetables as a first port of call but otherwise suggests sticking to snacks that have 100 calories or fewer.

Preventing tooth decay

As far as packed lunches go, the guidelines offered to schools are a good place to start – after all a balanced meal is the main objective. A sandwich with carrot sticks and a yoghurt is going to tick most of the boxes. Again Change4Life has some good tips on shaking things up.

The pressures on working parents are many, as long as we concentrate on cutting sugar and fat we should be on the right track to protecting children’s health – and preventing tooth decay.

If you are concerned about tooth decay contact Bhandal Dental Surgery. 

Call us now to make an appointment

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