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Lunchbox Debate: Paediatrician Weighs-In

Local social media sites recently lit up with flurry of activity when a mom posted about having sent her child to school with a non-alcoholic cider when she had supposedly run out of juice to include in the child’s lunchbox for the day. It has since been found that the post that circulated was fake.  

Despite this, the incident, which sparked some hilarious but divided social media comments from parents, showed just how different parents’ views are when it comes to drink and snack choices for their little ones. 

Dr Iqbal Karbanee, a paediatrician and CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, a trusted telephonic medical advice service for the first 1000 days of a child’s life, starting from conception to birth and beyond, says that the “lunchbox” incident has highlighted the need to discuss what being healthy means, and how parents can help their children eat healthy and stay healthy. 

“Children learn by watching their parents’ behaviour. If families regularly eat unhealthy food, this may result in bad habits, and may negatively impact the health of the children over the long term,” says Karbanee.  

He adds that when it comes to fruit juices in a lunch box, water is always preferred, and sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum.  

“This is because fruit juice contains fructose that is a type of sugar. In excessive quantities this can result in loose stools as well as cramping of the tummy. Fruit juice should also be limited due to the effect of on the teeth in young children. Milk teeth enamel is easily affected. It is recommended to always dilute fruit juice with water at least 50/50 to reduce this effect specifically. Fruit juices also have quite intense sweet tastes generally. Children love them for this reason. Diluting the juice makes this taste less intense and is beneficial in this way.  Diluting fruit juice helps reduce the loose stools associated with large amounts of concentrated juice in the diet. As a rough guide children should not get more than 250ml of juice per day.”      

He adds that lunchboxes are the cornerstone of healthy food habits from a young age.  

“In order to provide enough energy to concentrate and participate properly at school, the lunchbox should contain snacks that are wholesome. Dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt, vegetable sticks like carrots and cucumber are great. Two slices of bread are usually enough. Try and limit the amount of high fat content in the bread. It is best to keep the cheese and polonies to a minimum,” says Karbanee.  

He adds that it is an opportune time for all parents to reconsider what they deem healthy or appropriate food choices for their kids.  

“Eating healthy starts early on in life. If there are changes to be made, it should not be an isolated event, but rather, the changes should be extended to the whole family. Neither should this be a temporary change but should become part of a lifestyle that can have positive effects for the whole family,” concludes Karbanee.