Healthy Lunchbox Guide for Parents and Children

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Parenting Advice for Lunchbox and Obesity

safefood urges parents to cut down on lunch time treats and help reverse increasing obesity levels in Ireland

safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board has issued advice urging parents to do their homework on nutritional lunches for Irish children. Research conducted by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance has revealed that one in four parents have reported finding it difficult to provide healthy foods for their children. A leaflet, What you need to know about healthy lunch boxes, has been developed by safefood which gives simple advice on convenient and nutritional lunch box favourites and is available from the safefood helpline on 1850 404567.

The research further revealed that on average, a fifth of calories and fat in Irish children's diets come from treat foods like confectionary, chocolate, crisps, cake and biscuits. Dr Marian Faughnan, Nutritionist, safefood, commented, "It's really important to provide children with good eating habits from an early age. A balanced diet is crucial for a child's development. In addition, in order to protect children from the health risks associated with being overweight, fruit and vegetable intake should be encouraged and at the same time a reduction in fatty foods like crisps, biscuits and chocolate. We don't want to take the fun out of food for kids but maintaining a balance between nutritious and treat foods is essential."

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The Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance research revealed that 20% of boys and 23% of girls are overweight or obese. Furthermore, research conducted by safefood showed that 62% of people said they were concerned about obesity among children. The food children consume can have an impact on their well-being, with some evidence showing that diet can affect performance in school. Complications, which can arise later in life as a result of an unhealthy diet include heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The benefits of preventing this trend through education at a young age should not be underestimated.

A collaborative study between UCD and Queens showed that 9 out of 10 children have their lunches prepared by a parent or guardian outlining the need for this group to ensure that a healthy balance is maintained. This preliminary research into children's lunchboxes went on to reveal that 47% of the lunchboxes analyzed in the study contained no fruit or vegetables, while 73% contained no dairy.

Healthy and nutritious lunches can include a variety of tasty foods. To help provide children with a balanced diet, it is recommended to include a variety of carbohydrate foods like rice, pasta and breads, one or more portion of fruit and vegetables, one portion of dairy foods each day and small amounts of deli meats, fish like tuna or salmon or vegetable alternatives.

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