This week on Loose Women, talk turned to the often controversial topic of school meals. With people across the country and chefs like Jamie Oliver campaigning for more consideration to be given to the health of meals, it finally looks like change could be afoot…
What do you see when you think about your school meals from back in the day? Pizza and chips? Chocolate cake with lumpy custard? Turkey Twizzlers? Well, as of Thursday 1st January 2015, newly enforced guidelines meant that school meals are now required to meet altogether healthier standards.
The guidelines state that meals should now:
- Contain one or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment, every day.
- Contain at least three different fruits and three different vegetables each week
- Place an emphasis on wholegrain foods, in place of refined carbohydrates
- Place an emphasis on making water the drink of choice
- Limit fruit juice portions to quarter pints (150ml)
- Restrict the amount of added sugars or honey in other drinks to 5%
- Contain no more than two portions a week of food that has been deep-fried, batter-coated or breadcrumb-coated.
- Contain no more than two portions of food that incorporates pastry each week
- Contain one portion of milk (lower fat or lactose-reduced), once a day
This is all might sound a bit full-on, but it really is for the good of our kids. After all, imagine how salt and sugar-rich the fried and crispy alternatives are!
How will the new meals help?
Healthier meals like these come packed full of benefits for youngsters. For starters, they’re much less stodgy, so won’t leave your little ones feeling sleepy and lacklustre during their afternoon lessons. Instead, they can actually give children more energy thanks to the host of vitamins and minerals they contain.
Take wholegrain foods and vegetables like broccoli. The former slowly release glucose (an essential energy booster) into the bloodstream, keeping us alert throughout the day. The latter contains vitamin K, which is considered by researchers to improve brain power and function.
Then there is the folic acid, calcium, iron, protein, fibre and countless beneficial vitamins that fruit and vegetables contain – crucial components to a youngster’s healthy growth. And yes, fruit juices may contain some healthy vitamins, but they also contain lots of sneaky sugars that can be avoided with these newly recommended drinks.
Which schools are affected?
The new regulations are mandatory for a range of schools: local authority organisations, new free schools and, from now on, schools that convert to academy status. What’s more, many schools for which the guidelines aren’t mandatory have voluntarily pledged to work the new regulations into their own school meal plans.
If your child’s school hasn’t taken the recommendations on board, however, and you’re concerned about the things they fill their bellies with during the school day, why not take a look at these great lunchbox suggestions from NHS Choices and BBC Good Food? As well as the key foods to include in a child’s packed lunch, there are plenty of suggestions for the meals you could make with them.