Parents stress over lunchbox mess
PARENTS in our town are struggling with nutritional anxiety when they pack their children’s lunchbox.
Findings from Capilano Honey’s Family Nutrition Report showed over a third of parents resorted to following their gut instinct when trying to navigate the minefield of healthy eating information.
Confusing dietary information is to blame for a rise in nutritional anxiety among parents, with more than one in ten admitting they’re baffled by conflicting recommendations around what they should and shouldn’t be feeding their children.
The report also revealed busy lifestyles were a key contributor to mealtime stress, with nearly 18 per cent saying they would like to feed their family healthier meals but can’t due to lack of time.
Compounding this nutritional nightmare are fussy eaters, with half of parents contending with a fusspot and 93 per cent admitting to dishing out food that is not nutritionally ideal just so their children will eat.
Echuca Regional Health dietitian Stephanie Greetham said she often gets questions from parents about what constitutes a healthy lunchbox.
“Not only do parents need to provide their children with healthy food and snacks but they have the added pressure of ensuring lunchboxes are nut free and sometimes package free,” she said.
“Navigating the supermarket aisles can be quite difficult with many products marketed as healthy or low fat, but which are often packed with sugar, additives or sodium to improve taste, consistency and extend their shelf life.
“The easiest way to eat healthy is to provide home-made treats with wholesome ingredients.
“Buying lots of foods without labels such as fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and choosing packaged products with a small ingredient list is the best way to go.”
Fellow dietitian Jessica Rothwell said a busy lifestyle can contribute to poor eating habits in both adults and children but it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Preparation is the key to ensure you are providing the best foods for your family when time is limited,” she said.
“Plan your weekly meals ahead of time. Do one large supermarket shop (and take a list) and where possible, cook foods in bulk and freeze left over portions for those nights where you need a quick meal.
“Fresh fruit, nuts, natural yoghurts and home-made muffins are easy and healthy snack options.
“Fortunately, there are many school canteens undergoing menu changes to create a healthier food environment for students.”
Ms Greetham said managing a fussy eater can be challenging for parents and it can be tempting to offer less healthy alternatives, just so children eat something.
“It’s important to remember, that unless they’re ill, a young child will not voluntarily starve themselves,” she said.
“If your child seems healthy, energetic and is growing well, they are eating enough. So, stay calm, get your children involved in all aspects of food preparation and continue to offer different foods.
“And remember it can take as many as 10 times for a child to accept a new food.”
If in doubt speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian or visit the Dietitians Association of Australia website for suggestions at www.daa.asn.au