Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Posts Tagged ‘research

Does your child’s lunch pack a nutritional punch?

with 11 comments

There was quite a bit of hoo-ha this week about the state of children’s packed lunches.

Apparently, just one per cent of those surveyed were considered to be “healthy”.

About one-quarter of the 1,300 lunches taken to school by eight and nine-year-olds examined by researchers at the University of Leeds contained sweets, savoury snacks and sugary drinks.

These food items were banned by the government in 2006 when it introduced new rules on prepared meals for local authority schools in England.

Healthy school lunches caused much hand-wringing. Chips and turkey twizzlers might have gone, but the sticky problem of the packed lunch remains.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=packed+lunch&iid=3600249″ src=”3/2/f/5/Packed_Lunch_f8eb.jpg?adImageId=8992534&imageId=3600249″ width=”234″ height=”183″ /]

The study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that:

  • Few contained all the nutrients needed to consider it a balanced meal (starch, vegetables, protein, dairy and fruit);
  • Few had foods containing vitamin A, zinc, folate, iron;
  • Many contained sugary drinks and sweets;
  • Many lunches were low in fibre;
  • Many had high salt.

What should happen to the “persistent offenders” who repeatedly foist packets of crisps, cartons of squash and sweets on their offspring?

Should schools intervene? Would headteachers be accused of imposing some kind of nanny state?

It is a thorny subject – and very difficult to get right. Many schools have signed up to the Healthy Schools campaign, so anything that compromises it should be tackled. Head on.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sandwiches&iid=6037602″ src=”c/7/d/6/KIDSLUNCH_bc1b.JPG?adImageId=8992608&imageId=6037602″ width=”234″ height=”239″ /]Parents, however, don’t like to be dictated to. Especially those who don’t care what food they provide for their families.

Schools have a duty of care, but many headteachers are nervous of telling parents off about the content of their darlings’ Spongebob and Barbie boxes. Offering advice on where to find help on healthy packed lunches is all very well, but what do you say to the parents who believe a strawberry lollypop comprises one of your five-a-day?

At some schools I have visited, lunchtime supervisors do keep a close eye on the packed lunches that are brought in.

If they spot a child whose meal consists of a bit of processed slimy ham and crackers, a packet of sweets and a pack of crisps, they report to the headteacher. If it is a regular occurrence, he/she is likely to write to the parents about the inadequacy of its contents.

Is that a good thing to do? I’d love to know what you think.

The problem is that those who do try to offer a balanced lunch are also being labelled as bad for including the odd nutritionally-dubious snack.

A 25g bag of salt and vinegar crisps contains 131 calories (74.7 from fat) and 8g of fat. There is a whopping 200mg of sodium (salt), carbs account for 12.5g and protein 1.6g.

(source: http://fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/walkers/salt-and-vinegar-crisps)

By comparison, a 102g serving of roast potatoes, made according to the recipe provided by the Schools Food Trust, contains 132 calories and has 7.1g fat. Carbs come in at 16.2g and sodium 7mg. There is 1.7g of protein.

(source: http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/UploadDocs/Contents/Documents/george_dixon_primary_example_compliant_menu.pdf)

Is sodium is the issue here because calorie/fat/carbs-wise, there isn’t that much in it?

Before I’m accused of cherry picking my potato recipe, I will say that the Schools Food Trust’s nutritional standards include other starch-based foods that have lower fat/calories etc – including the dreaded potato waffle that I have bemoaned the return of in Walsall.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=sandwiches&iid=1276263″ src=”f/a/9/6/Parents_Call_For_d97b.jpg?adImageId=8992944&imageId=1276263″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]

I can’t honestly see a problem with including a cake or treat (not a packet of sweets or a bar of chocolate) if the rest of the meal is balanced.

My children often find a chocolate biscuit, a slice of cake (homemade or shop bought) or half a bag of crisps in their lunch. But they have fruit and/or vegetables, sometimes a yoghurt, as well as sandwiches. If they leave the fruit, they don’t get a treat the next day and get double fruit. This is also flawed: I’m using fruit as a punishment, aren’t I?

If schools are cooking delicious-sounding puddings such as flapjacks (which has sugar and golden syrup) and chocolate cracknell – made with cocoa, golden syrup and sugar – then I refuse to be the villain of the piece.

But, then, I’m not the one being targeted here. Am I? I might be surprised …

Photographs from PicApp


Written by CommonPeople

January 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Please accept my apologies for being a bad mother

with 17 comments

Surveys. Don’t you love them? One week there is a scientific piece of research that tells us a glass of red wine three times a week is good for the heart.

Fast forward a fortnight and there is a contradictory “evidence”: drinking three glasses of red wine a week can increase incidences of “certain types of” cancer.

I do try to take them with a pinch of salt (not too much, because I don’t want a stroke. Perhaps I should take them with a pinch of low sodium substitute), but there are occasions when, in the name of science, anthropology or just sheer mischief making that studies make me want to scream (primal scream therapy is alleged to help with emotional problems).

This week – for there are these pieces of research popping up weekly – is the “news” that working mothers are breeding obese, TV-addicted children who never eat fruit and vegetables.

According to research carried out by Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Institute of Child Health, University College London full-time working mothers were bringing up the unhealthiest children in the country.

This was followed by women who work part-time. Women who stayed at home had the healthiest children were “stay at home” mothers.

The figures in the report appear to be impressive in that the researchers involved 12,000 children born between 2000 and 2002 who were part of the Millennium Cohort Study.

Mothers were questioned about their working hours, their children’s food intake activity and exercise levels, as well as how much TV they watched or computer access they had.

The findings? Children of working mothers were more likely to have fizzy drinks, eat fewer portions of fruit and vegetables  and watch more TV – and do less exercise.

It is this kind of “research” that just makes me fume. Surely it is parenting skills – not whether or not the mother works – that makes a difference.

Women do not usually have the luxury of choice when it comes to returning to work – most have to work to help pay the mortgage/rent, the bills and put food on the table (whether that’s a bag of chips or a full Sunday lunch).

If they do have the choice and they decide to stay at home – that is fine. It is also fine for a woman to go to work.

Yes, we might feel torn in two when leaving the children when we put on the working suit and leave the vomit-stained jumper at home, but that doesn’t mean we forget what vegetables look like.

Bringing up children has nothing to do with whether or not a woman goes out to work. Basic parenting is a learned skill, but we need vegetables and fruit, too. That doesn’t go out of the window when we go to work.

Most of us have the knowledge, but probably need a bit of support when it comes to time management skills. What we don’t need is castigation and snide finger-pointing.

I know this research came out yesterday – but I didn’t have chance to blog about it then. I was busy being a bad mother: out working ALL day (yes –  from 9.30am until 5pm).

I could have written this yesterday evening, but I’m afraid I was too busy making my family a vegetable and wholewheat pasta bake (making my own tomato sauce, thank you), collecting son from his Beavers group and tidying the kitchen before falling into bed at 10pm.

So, please accept my humblest apologies for being a bad mother.

Written by CommonPeople

September 30, 2009 at 7:44 am