Back to School: Ireland’s Top 10 school lunchbox items revealed

Sugary treats still given 'every day'

Síle Nic Aonghusa

Reporter:

Síle Nic Aonghusa

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Donegal Food

Fresh fruit is the most popular lunchbox item

With just days to go before children go back to school, new research by Super Troopers with Laya healthcare, Ireland’s first-ever health homework programme, reveals the most popular school lunchbox items, with healthy choices coming out on top according to parents.

The research among parents of school children aged 5–12 years reveals that fresh fruit is the most popular lunchbox item, offered to eight in ten school children (79%), while junk food like crisps and chocolate are significantly less popular.

Now in its 5th year, Super Troopers is Irelands biggest ‘health homework’ programme and has grown to almost half of all Irish primary schools (1,510 participating schools) with 238,000 school children, 162,000 families and 15,000 teachers taking part in the free initiative this year. 

The good news is that Irish children are drinking less fizzy drinks, with just 4% drinking them at school.

Top 10 lunchbox items in primary schools: fresh fruit (79%); sandwich, wrap or bread roll (79%); water (74%); cheese, yoghurt, milk (68%); vegetables (28%); fruit flavoured water (21%); pasta (20%); salad (15%); crisps (7%) and chocolate
(7%).

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However, the bad news is that parents are clearly swapping fizzy drinks for sugary waters, with one in five (21%) kids drinking ‘fruit-flavoured water' as part of their school lunch offering.

Consultant Dietitian Paula Mee, a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI), cautioned parents about the hidden dangers of fruit-flavoured waters.

Mee conducted a detailed analysis on 12 fruit-infused waters readily available in Irish stores, revealing some samples provide 22g sugar or 5 teaspoons in a 250ml serving.

Her analysis reveals that some fruit-flavoured waters can be an unhealthy substitute for sugary fizzy drinks, with several containing added sugars, intense sweeteners and other additives.

While Irish parents appear to be offering healthy lunchbox choices to children during the day, the rules around healthy nutrition seem to slip while at home.

The Super Troopers research shows that kids are five times more likely to get an unhealthy “treat” at home.

One third (36%) of parents say they are giving sweets, crisps, chocolate and soft drinks to their children every day, while 25% say they give treats to their kids between three and six times each week. Just 13% say they only give treats to children at weekends.

Food portion sizes continues to be a challenge, with one in five parents admitting that the portion sizes their children have at home are too large, compared to one in four (38%) who find portion sizes when eating out as a family too large.

Lorraine Walsh, Director of Customer Experience and Marketing at laya healthcare says: "One million school children have taken part in Super Troopers with laya healthcare since we launched in 2014, and its hugely encouraging to see parents embrace a healthier approach to school lunches.

"As part of the Super Troopers programme we want to educate primary school children and their parents on the importance of diet, nutrition, fitness, activity, mental health and other topics that impact on childhood obesity.  

"By tackling this at primary school level we can create healthy habits and bring about change that will benefit Irish people today, tomorrow and into the future."

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