It’s back to school time, and with it comes the perceived pressure many parents feel to pack their little people the perfect lunchbox.
We all know that our children (and us grown up kids too for that matter) need a balanced and nutritious lunch to make it through the day. Most of us grew up hearing about the Nutrition Australia Healthy Eating Pyramid, but many of us may have missed the memo that the pyramid has been updated to reflect the latest evidence released in the government’s national Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The major change to the pyramid is the decreased focus on cereals and grains as the main portion of a meal, with precedence now being given to veggies, as well as the suggestion to “choose water and healthy fats” and “avoid sugar”.
As you can see there’s a whole bunch of green to be seen and we love it.
At our Uniting early learning centres (covering preschool education, childcare, day care and after school care services) we work with children to develop skills for the whole of life – and this includes the foods they choose to put in their bodies. It’s more than just the three Rs of “Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic” taking place in our early learning spaces. Our approach sees children being introduced to values like respect and compassion (for self and others), alongside numbers, letters, healthy eating, movement and art. Some of our services even offer yoga.
In our learning spaces, we work with children to teach them about making food choices that reflect the Healthy Eating Pyramid, and our team members receive regular professional development training through the NSW government’s ‘Munch and Move’ program. Our whole aim is to empower children to make their own decisions about what they put in their bodies – not just when they’re at their childcare centre or preschool, but at home too. We want them to go home and feel confident to start a conversation with their families about what goes in the lunch box – and eventually to be making those choices themselves.
What this all comes down to is the concept of ‘children’s citizenship’ – a practice that takes into account the unique contribution that little humans already make to their families, schools and communities. It recognises the untapped potential of every child to change something in the world – even if it just starts with the contents of their lunchbox. We make the effort to celebrate the contributions children make that often go unnoticed – things like their unique ideas, efforts, emotions and experience.
With so many ‘healthy’ eating fads hitting the pages of our magazines and facebook feeds, we understanding how confusing navigating something as simple as a daily lunchbox can be. As a starting place, we recommend using the Healthy Eating Pyramid as a ‘checklist’ when packing lunches and get your children involved in the process. By working with your little ones, packing lunches can become an opportunity to spend quality time together as you take the time to talk about the choices being made.