Schools in Singapore, both local and international, offer a wide range of foods for students to enjoy. For busy parents, paying for school-supplied lunches or giving children an allowance to spend on food at the school canteen is the most convenient option. For myself though (and a large number of parents), I prefer to send packed lunches from home for the kids and here are five reasons why the effort that goes into that home-packed lunch box, is totally worth it!
1. Parents know best
Parents know best when it comes to what their child’s food habits are. They are able to factor in a wide variety of their child’s favourite healthy food and are able to offer them a wider range of options than the school menu which can be rather repetitive.
Also, home-packed lunches are the safest bet for kids with allergies and food sensitivities (to gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs etc) as not all schools are able to accommodate these unique requirements.
2. Healthy eating habits
By the age of 3, kids start to show a clear preference for some foods over others. This is a great opportunity to help them develop a taste for healthy foods – especially fruit and veggies. Getting kids involved in selecting the healthy additions to their school lunches gives them a sense of responsibility and control. I see this as an investment because, over a period, your children will learn how to make good choices even when mummy isn’t watching. That is the kind of learning that will stay with them through adolescence and adult hood. When you think about the larger picture – these habits will in turn encourage and help develop a love for cooking at home instead of turning to convenient and often unhealthy take-out food!
3. Less wastage
For younger kids, school provided lunches result in a lot of food waste as portion sizes tend to be much higher than what the average 3- 5-year-old eats. This waste goes totally un-checked as parents never “see” the food being wasted. When a child brings leftovers from a home-packed lunch it helps mums know how much the child ate. Also, left over lunch boxes can easily be used as after-school snacks. Children therefore learn not to simply toss un-eaten food into the bin, but that it can be easily saved and eaten later!
4. Personal touch
Homemade lunches can easily accommodate foods from the culture a child belongs to. My little one often carries easy, healthy, kid-friendly Indian dishes (mini-idli, grilled paneer cubes etc). This helps create variety and our options can go way beyond sandwiches and the ever-popular pasta! She has learnt so much about Japanese, Italian, Taiwanese and Mexican dishes from her little lunch buddies who all also bring home-packed lunches and this encourages her to be more adventurous and accept different cuisines with an open mind! It’s such a great opportunity for learning! Moreover, parents can pop in little “love notes” or jokes and riddles for their kids as a fun personal touch!
5. It can be cheaper!
The average meal that a kindergarten child at an international school eats costs between $6-$8 per meal. Parents often pay between $7-$10 per meal for the older ones. Even if meals at school may not cost as much, you definitely can’t get the same quality of food as you would if you made the meals for your kid. The best part is that almost no food goes to waste because it can always be eaten later!
Bonus reason: You get to shop.
Ok, this one’s not exactly a compelling reason, but it’s more like a little bonus. One of the big reasons my little one looks forward to the new school year, is because she gets to go shopping and pick out her favourite lunch box and water bottle! While I narrow down the options based on size, material (Stainless steel, BPA free & thermal insulation) she gets to pick the colour or character that she likes! Having a lunch box of her choice plays a big part in motivating my little one to eat her lunch enthusiastically! So try your hands at making lunches for your child to bring to school.
Tanya Soman is the founder & head chef at Fusspot & Foodie, a Singapore based kids-focused food start-up and mum to her five-year-old girl Keya. When she takes a break from juggling her various roles as a mum, wife and entrepreneur, Tanya will most likely be found reading to her little girl in an animated voice, teaching herself origami or reminding her goofy dog-child Sherlock that crayons & Lego are not real food!