Five Minutes More…
Five minutes. It’s nothing. A tiny little time frame in the grand scheme of things.
However, new research shows that in just five minutes we could dramatically improve a child’s daily nutritional intake.
Well, a study from Deakin University found that children need around 15 minutes to finish a meal. As a parent, this feels about right to me. My daughters are notoriously slow eaters, but even I can see that in 15 minutes you strike the balance between focussing on your food, without feeling rushed. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, after all. However, the study also found that most primary schools only give children ten minutes to eat before sending them outside to play.
At first, this may not seem like an issue worth blogging about! But when we dig a little deeper, as Deakin University did, we see that it can have a nutritional impact we may not originally have considered.
When I pack my daughter’s lunchbox, I always include fruit, veggie sticks, a sandwich, maybe a yoghurt: I try and be as healthy as possible (I am building a business that champions healthy school lunches, after all!) But, as I’m sure most parents can relate to, occasional treats do find their way into her lunchbox. So, if I put myself in Abigail’s little size 13 shoes: ten minutes to eat a sandwich, some grapes, a carrot and a cookie … I’m going to start with the cookie every time! Sorry carrot, but you’re getting left behind. Dr Melissa Barton from Deakin, explained “With less time to eat, children are more likely to prioritise the most appealing foods in their lunch box, such as the treats, which are often nutrient poor.”
The study also went on to discuss another interesting, and possibly more divisive, issue: who holds the responsibility for monitoring and ensuring healthy food in lunchboxes, teachers or parents? However, this feels like a topic for an entirely separate blog (when I’m feeling a little braver, perhaps!)
(It’s worth noting here that I’m pulling this information from a fabulous website called kidsnews.com.au, but we also shared some similar findings on our Instagram page back in May 2022 from ABC’s Behind the News)
This may not be an issue for all. Like I say, my daughters are both agonisingly slow eaters. But as a parent, reading this article struck many a cord with me. When my daughter was beginning her transition to school, a Kindergarten teacher told me, “She’ll have to learn to eat quicker!”, as if this was an academic target that needed addressing! I must admit, I did agree with the teacher at the time! I cannot stress how slow she is (eye roll emoji)! But seriously, it seems counter intuitive to rush children through a meal that will impact how successfully they are then able to focus on learning. Many a time has my daughter returned home from school with left over food, telling me: we ran out of time for fruit snack today, or, I didn’t have time to finish, all my friends were outside, so I just left my sandwich. Nutrition aside, this is also a huge waste of food and I know how much parents hate tipping leftovers into the bin (again, another subject for another day).
It seems like this is an issue felt by many, understood by experts and addressable only by schools. It also seems like there is a very easy fix…
Just five more minutes.
The LunchFox app is designed specifically for schools, enabling busy parents to order healthy lunchboxes, prepared by local cafes and delivered to your children at school.