Background The decline in the nutritional standard of school meals equates closely with an overall decline in the quality of the diets of British children. Numerous studies have found children’s diets to be high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre, calcium and iron ( Department
of Health, 1989, Adamson et al., 1991 ). A balanced diet is important in schoolchildren to promote good growth and development, to protect against short‐term illnesses and diseases such as dental caries and obesity, and to avoid manifestations of diseases in adult life such
as coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes. Lunches eaten at school make an important contribution to a child’s daily energy and nutrient intake ( Ruxton et al., 1996 ), and in recognition of this the government has proposed a set of new nutritional standards for school meals.
However, an increasing number of children are consuming packed lunches, which are not addressed in the new proposals. Aim This study investigated whether an intervention based on a teaching session using the ’Balance of Good Health’ model would have an effect on the content
of packed lunches eaten by 10–11‐year‐old schoolchildren. The study also looked at parents’ views on healthy eating for their children. Methods Twenty‐five children from a Primary school in Lincolnshire took part in the study. The contents of their
lunch boxes were nutritionally analysed and scored against the Balance of Good Health model for three days in the preintervention week and for three days in the third week postintervention. Differences between weeks were statistically analysed using a paired t‐test. A questionnaire
was administered to parents in order to discover their views on healthy eating and on the intervention. Results A significant difference (P = 0.05) in the carbohydrate content of the lunch boxes was observed postintervention. There was also a greater compliance with
guidelines on fat, protein and riboflavin, although the change was not statistically significant. Consistent with results from previous studies; iron and calcium were found to be lower than the recommended amount. No significant difference was found when lunch boxes were scored against the
Balance of Good Health. Conclusions All parents recognized the importance of healthy eating for their children but felt the largest barrier to changing children’s eating habits were the child’s likes and dislikes. The study highlights the need for more nutrition education
both inside and outside the school.