Getting everyone out the front door without tears can be hard work some mornings.
And it can be even tougher to feel good about a half-hearted bag of shapes and bruised piece of fruit when instagram profiles like dictatorlunches exist (one of their offerings included “Frankenstein carne asada rolls and ninja cheeses, with dehydrated carrot swords).
But with 28 per cent of Australian kids overweight or obese, packing a healthy lunch, that actually gets eaten, is one of the most important things parents can do for their kids health.
Local schools and parents have come up with some ingenious solutions to shift school lunches away from pre-packaged snacks and towards fresh produce.
Kangaroo Valley Public School principal, Andrew Smee, said a push for plastic-free lunch boxes has had the welcome side effect of promoting healthier meals.
“Two years ago we started then campaign for nude lunchboxes, reducing the amount of waste that enters the school, and everyone jumped on board,” he said.
“I think it gives parents the scope to think about what’s going into the lunchboxes – we try to promote as much colour in lunchboxes as possible.
“There’s a big push in the department to make sure that kids are looking at healthier options as part of their lunches. It’s definitely part of what we do as a school.”
The St Michael’s Catholic Primary School canteen is recognised by NSW Health as a healthy school canteen.
Canteen operator, Meagan Dempsey, said her top tip for getting healthy lunches into kids was to “make it fun”.
“It’s about presentation, whether it’s in a pink cup, or sticking a little flag on top of the piece of fruit, it makes them want to choose that,” she said.
“You can cut carrots into triangles, and it becomes something new. You can also hide veggies behind what they do like.
“You’re not going to get every kid to like salad or eat spinach, but if you can sneak them in behind something they will eat, you can change the way they think about it.”
She said creating a culture of healthy eating encouraged children to make better choices.
“Seeing kids who enjoy healthy lunches and home cooked meals, their friends think ‘I’d like to try that’, even if they’ve never though about it.
“In the mornings I’ll ask the kids at the canteen what kind of thing they would like for lunch. They chose what they would like, and I think it’s the same for lunchboxes.
“If the kids get to choose what fruit they want to eat that day, it makes them feel empowered.
“They know they chose that, ‘it wasn’t mummy making me eat it, I chose that’.”
Making and freezing food ahead of time was her other tip for families on the go.