Healthy lunch suggestions 'not realistic'


It's every parent's dilemma: Do you pack your child's lunchbox with healthy food they won't eat, or give in and feed them junk?

You'd think that health experts might be trying to help, but schools say the guidelines they get are unrealistic.

The Heart Foundation is suggesting to low-income parents that they send their kids off to school each morning with cottage cheese pita pockets, celery and hummus, sushi, couscous, leftover chop suey, and chickpea curry.

Some parents, principals and budgeting services have described the school lunch guidelines as unrealistic and unaffordable.

Jillian Littlewood, principal of decile one Hamilton primary Crawshaw School, said parents would probably be sticking with the sandwiches and rolls.

"I would think that leftovers in our families is not really realistic. Most of them eat whatever is there."

Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox said many families had restricted budgets and would be forced to cut back on types of healthy options recommended.

"It would be really helpful if they had a cut price version as well. You know, here's the ideal, but if money is tight here are the alternatives."

The Heart Foundation admits its suggestions are not made with everyday budgets in mind. "We classify these foods according to their nutrient profile. It's not aimed at promoting affordable foods," manager of regional operations and education Darryl Bishop said.

"We're trying to show interesting things you can do with food and give people options."

Shane Ngatai, principal of Hamilton's Rhode Street School, said hummus, pita bread and sushi were all served - and encouraged to be made by kids - at his school.

"What we teach them in the Sustainable Kids Programme is that you can make these things and they can be healthy and they don't have to cost a fortune if you make them from scratch."

"If you were on a low income those types of things would be prohibitive, so we've taken a more positive approach to those suggestions and said: ‘Why don't we teach these kids to make these from the raw materials?"

Mr Ngatai said the school's Sustainable Kids Programme and parent cooking courses had been very successful at his school.

The Ministry of Health's website Health Ed sets out a number of recommendations for parents and kids looking to eat healthily. Small meals and snacks suggested include fresh fruit, scones, sandwiches, pita bread and crackers.

According to the university of Otago's 2012 Food Cost Survey, the basic weekly cost of a balanced diet for a five-year-old in Hamilton was $35.

Mrs Fox said providing healthy meals for multiple kids was often the big problem: "That's really this issue. You're not making it for just one person, you're making it for the whole family."


60% of kids don't eat enough fruit

40% of kids don't eat enough veges

21% never drink milk

49% don't eat enough lean meats

17% don't eat breakfast regularly at home

21% of children are overweight

8% of children are obese

32% of children's daily energy intake is consumed at school