Healthy lunchbox a challenge

Parents are starting to pick up on healthy eating messages but still face challenges in ensuring the school lunchbox is packed with nutritional goodies, research has found.

Just days before new healthy eating guidelines are introduced at schools, a small survey has found that parents and caregivers welcomed the idea of a home-school partnership on the issue as many still did not know what it meant to eat healthily.

About 100 families throughout New Zealand were interviewed for a report commissioned by the Health Sponsorship Council's Feeding our Futures campaign.

Programme manager Michelle Mako said many of those surveyed reported that school rules about foods children could bring for lunch would help to educate themselves about what foods were healthy.

The research found many New Zealand parents struggled with the concept of eating healthily and lacked the knowledge and skills to prepare nutritional food.

Some parents reported repeating unhealthy eating behaviours from their own childhoods.

"Parents feel they are being undermined by promotion of unhealthy foods, peer pressure on their children, and easy access to less healthy foods," Ms Mako said. The survey found that the mainstay of the school lunchbox, the sandwich, was making way for high-value goods such as muesli bars and crisps.

Nutritionist Celia Murphy told the New Zealand Herald the decline of the sandwich was not necessarily bad news.

Ms Murphy, a researcher for public health specialist Quigley and Watts, said depending on how they were made, sandwiches were potentially a good, filling and nutritious lunch but "they could also be not that flash".

Wholegrain bread with a small amount of olive oil-based spread or butter, lean protein and vegetables was good. However, lots of butter, chocolate spreads and jam were no-nos.

"There are certainly alternatives," she said. Pasta salads, leftover risotto, and filled wraps were all increasing in popularity.

Parents want healthy eating messages, easy access to cheap fruit and vegetables, as well as access to healthy food options, Ms Mako said.

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