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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Children's lunchboxes 'unhealthy'
Unhealthy lunchbox
The FSA has said that unhealthy snacks are stil a staple
The food in a typical child's lunchbox is still packed with saturated fat, salt and sugar, a study has found.

The Food Standards Agency found that children are eating double the recommended lunchtime intake of saturated fat and sugar.

The food in the average lunchbox contains up to half the daily recommended intake of salt.

Three out of four lunchboxes also failed to meet government nutritional standards for school meals.

Sandwiches or rolls - 82%
Packet of crisps - 69%
Dairy items (yoghurts, cheese or milk based products) - 59%
Biscuits or chocolate bars - 58%

The survey of 688 home-packed lunchboxes for children from 28 schools across England found nine out of 10 children took a packed lunch to school each day.

The results showed that the average amount of fat in a child's lunchbox had increased by three grams since a similar survey was carried out last year.

The majority of fat present in the surveyed lunchbox foods came from crisps, fat spreads, cheese products, chocolate bars and biscuits.

Foods contributing to high salt intake included white bread, crisps and processed meats.

What should a nutritious lunch box look like?

And sugar levels were bumped up by products such as fruit squash, chocolate-covered bars, biscuits and yoghurts.

The survey also revealed under a fifth of lunchboxes (16%) did not contain a starchy food such as sandwiches, pasta or rice and that just under half the lunchboxes surveyed (48%) failed to contain a portion of fruit or chopped veg.

Only one lunchbox contained a salad.

Nutritional standards state that school meals must offer at least:

  • one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables
  • one portion of milk or dairy item
  • one portion of meat, fish or other protein source
  • one portion of a starchy food such as bread, pasta or rice

Sam Church, a FSA nutritionist, said: "Parents want the best for their children but everybody knows how difficult and stressful it can be to get children to eat a wider range of different and healthier foods.

"Our survey findings revealed that children need to eat more starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, fruit and veg and dairy foods such as yoghurts.

"We all know that what children eat now can have a big impact on their diet and health in the future and that there is nothing wrong with children having the odd snack - but these should be eaten in moderation and as part of a varied and balanced diet."

The FSA has drawn up guidelines on what products should be included in a healthy lunchbox. Details are available on its website.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The message is that small changes now can make big differences for children's future"

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