One of the laments of parents is getting children to eat lunch. The number of lunches that are either swapped or not eaten is huge. It does not even seem to matter that much, what is put in the lunchbox. Even when children select and make their own lunch the same thing applies.
This I can say from personal experience. Our children who are now teenagers have been, as one of their tasks making their own lunches for the last few years, albeit with some guidance,help and oversight. They are pretty good with making a healthy lunch and yes they are allowed a sweet treat too, generally one without lots of numbers on the label.
There are many theories as to why children do not tend to want to eat lunch at school. The main one, which is common sense really, is that they want to play with their friends at lunchtime and this takes priority. This is especially the case with boys. They have been sitting down for a few hours, they have lots of energy to expend and the opportunity to run around and throw or kick a ball with their friends takes their mind off food.
It is also well known that most children arrive home hungry and will have a meal after school. The smarter nutritionists advise not trying to battle this but giving children a decent meal when they come home. Giving them a decent breakfast is also critical.
So is there anything that can be done to get children to eat lunch? Some schools have now started doing the obvious-sending them out to play before lunch. These schools have reported some interesting findings. The children eat more fruits and vegetables and there are less thrown away.
The teachers have also noticed less behavioral problems. The principal of a New Jersey school was quoted as saying that by letting the children play first “all the wiggles were out”. By letting the children do what they want to do (play with their friends) they are actually being allowed to do what they need to do-be active and use up some energy.
Whilst the school system, which has evolved over the last century, requires children to sit still for six hours per day, children are not actually designed to do this. They need to be active and to use up energy. When they are not able to do that, energy can explode in other ways and this leads to what is then called “behavioural problems”. Or even worse, can lead to the label of ADHD being applied, all because the needs of the children were denied in the first place.
One school reported a 40% drop in nurse room visits due to headache and stomachache.
It is amazing how, when we do what the body needs, things go better. It would not come as a surprise (and I do not know if this has been looked at) if these children got better grades due to this simple change. Previous studies have shown children who eat breakfast regularly do better at school.
Education is important. Equally our children need to be active and need the right fuels. Here are some simple tips.
1) Give them a good breakfast such as oats, fruit, eggs, whole grain or rye toast, maybe a frittata.
2) Allow them to be active through the day and burn up energy.
3) By letting them do this they will eat lunch and benefit both behaviourally and most likely educationally.
4) Allow them a nutritious meal when they get home.
5) Get them doing some sport or physical exertion before sitting down to do homework.
Simple things make a difference to our children and to us.
What are some of your tips and ideas ?
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.