The great lunchbox obsession: Why we need to stop

With Elliott starting prep next year, the lunchbox topic has really got me thinking. I’ve seen a lot in the media and parenting groups about this very topic, including a lot of judgement,  and I’m positive I’m going to be one of those mums preparing lunchboxes on a daily basis with the whole lunchbox debate floating around my head.

As I peer into the fridge, prepare his sandwich and other snacks for his lunchbox, it’s likely I’ll be questioning myself, ‘is this healthy enough? Is it too high in simple carbs? Is there too much sugar? Will it be sent home? ‘ I know for a fact that the over-emphasis put on healthy lunchboxes will make me second guess myself and I know that there are many parents who are already in this situation.

What I’m disappointed in is the fact that parents DO feel this way because of the pressure.Why should I be made to feel that way, why should any parent be made to feel that what they pack in their child’s lunchbox isn’t good enough or isn’t deemed healthy enough?

The great lunchbox obsession

If I go back to my school days, I can guarantee you that my teacher would have been sending food home left, right and centre if the same rules were in place. We always had a special treat in our lunchbox – a twinkie bar, a jam donut, a packet of chips, a juice. But guess what? We weren’t overweight – we played sports after school, we rode our bikes in the yard. We ate this food in moderation, mum knew it was ok and was part of a balanced diet.

But fast forward 20+ years and I reckon it’s gotten a bit out of hand.

Paleo lunchboxes, food made to look fancy, low GI, foods you can have, foods you can’t…. Seriously? What happened to a sandwich, piece of fruit and a few healthy snacks?

The most recent story I’ve heard (and not the only one) was about a child who happily made some muffins with his mum and was excited to take one in his lunchbox the next day. When it came time to eat it, the teacher wouldn’t let him, it was not healthy and was promptly put back in his lunchbox to be sent home. The mother was utterly confused and angry, the muffin was, in fact, a healthy muffin.  It had no sugar where instead applesauce was used as a natural sweetener. I was shocked to hear about this. What a horrible situation to put a child in.

the great lunchbox obsession

So, how did the teacher know the ingredients of this muffin? What if a child brought a red velvet cupcake made with beetroot, no refined sugar and almond meal instead of refined flour?  Would the teacher look at that too and immediately think ‘oh, that’s a cupcake, it’s bad, he can’t eat it?’ They probably would and I don’t believe that is right. A huge assumption is being made here. Perhaps parents need to start resorting to including ingredient lists with all homemade products? Now that’s taking it too far. Why not just leave the responsibility with the parents?

And what if it was your traditional muffin or cupcake? Apart from the parent, how does any other parent or teacher know what a child eats at home – for breakfast and dinner? How does any other parent or teacher know what extracurricular activities that child does outside of school or how much they play in the yard after each school day in order to balance their diet and exercise? They are not there, they are not watching, so I do not believe that anyone, apart from the parent, is in a position to stipulate or comment on what a child should or shouldn’t have in their lunchbox.

Don’t get me wrong, I have spoken to teacher friends and there are kids that come to school with absolutely terrible lunches. One I heard was a child coming to school with a large bag of chips for lunch. Now, if this happened, I completely agree with a teacher stepping in. But occasional foods every now and then, homemade ‘sweets’ that are healthy…that’s a parents call.

There’s such stigma around how inactive our kids are these days, this is what I believe we should be focusing on in addition to eating certain food groups in moderation.

I actually feel the same way about adults and all of the healthy eating hype and diets.  People are becoming so obsessive over ultra healthy eating, I actually don’t reckon it’s healthy at all because people spend so much of their time obsessing about their weight and body image instead of just being happy, enjoying life and enjoying all the types of delicious food in moderation.

I’m all for healthy eating and I can understand teachers trying to do their bit and perhaps that the direction is coming from a higher place, but where is the line drawn and when can parents feel confident about making their own decisions?

I truly believe parenting is getting harder, not because of our kids, but because of societal pressure. As a parent, I find it overwhelming, exhausting and mind-boggling and it’s taking away a lot of the joy that should be experienced as a parent. So can we not just let parents be parents, teachers be teachers, let parents worry about their own kids and so on and so forth?

Let’s not steal any more of the fun away from childhood and parenting, let’s just be smart about it.

What are your thoughts on the issue? 

The lunchbox obsession

Keen to look after the environment? Check out my rubbish free lunchbox ideas.

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman. She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a freelance writer, a social media manager, a Mum to her six-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, six chickens and Benny the dog and wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little worker's cottage in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Comment with Facebook



  1. February 5, 2016 / 8:31 am

    I totally agree Eva. We’ve become a very silly nation of kid food police. Another thing that drives me totally bonkers is the emphasis on healthy eating in children’s TV shows. It’s every single program filled with singing pears and mean cakes taunting them these days and it must be so BORING for preschoolers!!
    I feed my kids healthy lunches with home-baked goods and occasionally I will toss in something fun. If I ever have any of my kids scolded for it, I’d be there in a second to turn it around. Angry-as!!

  2. February 5, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    I’m so worried about all this lunchbox stuff its a bit crazy. I’m kind of hoping it all dies down by the time I need to send bub to school in a few years, but I have a feeling it won’t. It just seems to be the latest way for parents to compare themselves against others and judge each other. Personally I’d rather send food I know my child would eat instead of baking ultra fancy healthy food I know she won’t touch. She doesn’t eat heaps of junk food, but she’s certainly not paleo or sugar free. I wonder how much of this food is actually getting eaten rather than being thrown out? I know lots of kids at school who used to throw out the healthy things their parents packed for lunch because they didn’t want to eat them.

  3. February 10, 2016 / 1:20 am


    Great article. Really enjoyed it.

    We also shared it with our audience.

    Agreed with what you said. In our opinion what a grown-up deems as healthy versus a child is diffrent in the sense of “grownup food” containing all the stuff we need to function, deeming an acquired tatste.

    So a child may not like lettuce or the taste of tomato, hence tossing it.

    No point then in any-case in wasting money to make sure your kid is falling in line with what the other people thinks or whats trending.

    Kids like fun stuff. You know what you kid loves, so give it to them without hesitating.

  4. February 15, 2016 / 10:36 pm

    This drives me nuts. I dealt with it for all 12 years my child was in school.
    Leave. Her. Alone. I am her parent, I dictate her food.

    At one point, her lunch period was at 11am.
    So, this translated to having something good before leaving home, and dinner not too long after returning home. She wasn’t super crazy about a big lunch at 11am, She would bring veggies and dip with some yogurt. I got a phone call about how they are worried about her “possible eating disorder” and a story from my child where they forced a school lunch on her (which I got the bill for).
    This food obsession is way out of hand, and everyone is paying the price.

  5. February 16, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    It’s a fine line isn’t it – I think it’s the school’s role to provide education, and that can include education about nutrition and dietary suggestions. But ultimately, it’s the parent’s role to decide what food to provide for their child. Teachers have no place making judgements and assumptions about what’s in a kid’s lunchbox.

  6. February 16, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    Crikey! Very relieved I’m not a parent – so much judging going on. Why do we care what other people are eating so much? I agree that if a child’s eating nothing but a packet of chips then the school needs to step in but it sounds like it’s really gotten out of hand. And who gets to define “healthy” these days? It’s certainly not a black and white question.

    • February 16, 2016 / 4:26 pm

      You should be relieved! I don’t even have a child at school yet and this stuff is concerning me!