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A Parent’s Guide to…. maintaining healthy habits at school

Over the summer holidays, we are able to keep tabs on our kids’ habits and routines around nutrition and lifestyle.

But what about when they’re let loose at school?! Trading snacks, raiding the tuck shop, choosing the less healthy options in the canteen, and opting to spend playtime on screens rather than running around… there’s a whole new set of healthy vs less healthy challenges for kids to encounter when they’re out of your sight!

There are lots of potential angles to explore together to ensure your family has the best possible chance to keep these new healthy habits in place.

2 boys chatting to each other
1. Peer Pressure

The words ‘peer pressure’ often make us think of negative and unwanted behaviours for our children, however some peer influence at school can be beneficial, especially when the influence corresponds to the values and beliefs you have worked on as a family – for example, being active at break times and attending after school activities

However there are some occasions, particularly around food choices, where peer pressure can lead children away from making the better choice. When children make different choices to their peers in a social setting, some may feel embarrassed or singled out… especially if they have low self-esteem.

It is important to create space for children to express to you how making certain decisions around food impacts them in their social gatherings, so that you can problem solve together. Using positive language around good decisions they have made at school is a great start and will help develop a stronger self-esteem and allow them to become confident in their actions.    


school cricket game
2. P.E and after school activities

Getting your children involved in after school physical activities boasts a whole range of benefits. 

The most obvious is getting kids active. Its recommended that children aged 6 to 17 years should take part in 1 hour or more of ‘moderate-to-vigorous’ physical activity every day, so taking part in an after school club is a great way to ensure they are meeting their physical activity requirement in addition to building lifelong healthy habits with exercise.

Getting involved in after school clubs also has strong links with building social skills, self-esteem and skill based learning!  

Just make sure to have a healthy snack packed and a water bottle to hand!  

Mother packing a school lunch
3. Packed snack hacks

Rethink the snacks you pack…it is recommended that children have a maximum of two snacks a day, so making sure the choices available are healthy ones is a great start. 

They don’t need to be over complicated at all, quite often the healthiest snacks are the easiest to prepare! Fruit is quick and convenient especially, if you are in a bit of a rush making packed lunches! You could also pack malt loaf, popcorn or rice cakes.

By making sure the healthiest option is also the easiest option to access, will help kid to make healthier decisions – especially in the school environment.  

Sweets and Candies
4. Restrict canteen & tuck shop snacks

It’s common knowledge that at we are bombarded with adverts from the food industry at every turn we take, making temptations very difficult to resist, particularly as a child amongst peers in social settings.

If you are already providing a packed lunch or an allotted amount of money for school dinners, they don’t need additional money to go the shop. This way they are less likely to tuck into high calorie and sugary foods on the way to or from school. 

A Parent’s Guide to…. school lunches

student having a school lunch
5. School meals vs packed lunch

Packing school lunches for the kids to take to school gives the most control and options over the food and ingredient choices which can be made – see our ideas for packing the perfectly balanced packed lunch.

However if this isn’t preferred or possible, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding to have school dinners.   

Look up school menus first if you are opting for this choice, the chosen catering companies usually display the rolling menus with nutritional information on for the term. This is really handy as you can all sit down, discuss and decide which options may be better for your child beforehand. Have joint conversations together about the menu to manage expectations from both sides and allow for compromise throughout the week to ensure nutrition is balanced!