We all want the best for our children and know the importance of a balanced diet, but which is the best meal option for them during the weekdays whilst they are at school; a packed lunch or a school meal?
SCHOOL MEALS: THE PROS
- Cost Saving – A school meal may be the most cost effective option for many parents as unless you are organised and plan ahead, packed lunches can end up costing more.
- Nutritional Standards- School meals have been the subject of great improvement and strict standards have been enforced to ensure that children are provided with a healthy, nutritionally balanced menu at school.
- Convenience – School meals are the most convenient option for parents with a busy lifestyle who do not have time to plan, prepare and pack a lunch for their children each day. This is an easy option; all you have to do is pay the monthly fee to the school.
- Table Manners – Young children often struggle to get to grips with using cutlery, so the extra practice using a knife and fork each day (perhaps with a little guidance) could come in handy!
- Breaking Habits – Many parents find that although they struggle to persuade their child to eat certain foods in the home, when surrounded by their peers at school they follow the lead of others and begin to try new things. (Obviously this can work both ways!).
- Limited Choice – School meals follow a fixed menu on a rotational basis and offer far less variety than a packed lunch from home can.
- Fussy Eaters – For children who are not keen on certain types of food, being presented each day with meals they are not keen on may result in them not eating enough and getting the nutrition they need. Mealtimes should be a positive experience, not something your child dreads so if you opt for school meals and there are certain meals your child refuses to eat you could perhaps compromise and let them take a lunch from home on that day.
PACKED LUNCHES: THE PROS
- Flexibility and Control – You have control over what you put into your child’s lunch box and can encourage them to eat the foods you would like them to eat, you can take their preferences and any special dietary requirements into account.
- Fun and Variety – A packed lunch has endless possibilities to be creative and make mealtimes fun. Aside from the items you expect to see in a lunchbox like sandwiches, yoghurts etc. you could consider pasta dishes, fruit salads or perhaps a hot option such as soup during the winter. A good quality lunchbox with different compartments will provide you with endless options for creating fun food combinations to retain your child’s interest.
PACKED LUNCHES: THE CONS
- Time Constraints – Coming up with new ideas and finding time to put a nutritional lunchbox together is time consuming and not always convenient.
- No Guarantees – You may find that your child doesn’t eat their lunch, regardless of the time and energy you have put into it and you may find them swapping items for foods you would prefer they didn’t eat.
THE CLEAR WINNER
Ultimately there is no clear winner and the right decision will depend on the individual needs of your child and the quality of the schools provision. You may decide that a combination of both options works best, but providing your child is enjoying a balanced, nutritional lunch you will know you have made the right choice!
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