Cutting Sugar in Children’s Lunch-boxes

During the year, 190 school days means 190 lunch boxes. Soggy sandwiches, bruised apples and stale biscuits often find their way back home with pre-packaged foods often favoured. Although convenient and a guarantor that your child is eating during the day, that convenience can come at a cost to your child’s health. Add to that a hectic lifestyle and the constant mixed messages received about what is, and is not healthy, packing your child’s lunch box has just become as complex as navigating the lolly aisle with a tired pre-schooler!

In 2011-2012 the ABS conducted a study and found that 25.3% of children aged 5-17 were overweight or obese. There are many lifestyle factors contributing to this rise with foods marketed to children being high in salt, fat and sugar one of them. Sugar in particular is a hot topic at the moment and understandably so. 75% of all packaged foods contain added sugar so it’s likely your little ones are having more than their recommended quota of 3-4 teaspoons of added sugar per day.

Life Education's Clued up and Harold’s Surprise modules help children understand how a healthy eating lifestyle is an important step to making positive health choices now and in the future. We encourage them to think about their food choices and we also invite parents to prepare their food with their children and make them understand why each element is important for our bodies.

So what can you do to cut down the sugar in their lunch box but ensure the contents aren’t making a round trip and ending up in the garbage?

Below is a list of some common convenient lunchbox sweet choices often thought of as healthy, but which are actually loaded with added sugar. For each of them I suggest a healthier alternative for you to try.

We will also cover some tips on healthy savoury food options in articles to follow in the next  few weeks, so look out for those.

Pre-made “liquid breakfast” drinks
A healthier alternative is…
Throwing 1/2 cup low fat milk, 1 banana, handful of frozen berries and 1/3 cup of natural yoghurt into the blender. It will take less than 5 minutes and includes their 2 serves of fruit and 2 of the recommended 3 serves of dairy.

Flavoured yogurt
A healthier alternative is…
Choosing a plain or natural yogurt and adding your own flavour. Frozen or fresh berries, a teaspoon of honey, cinnamon or banana are just a few ideas.

Fruit juice and cordial
A healthier alternative is…
Eating whole pieces of fruit and drinking water. You can add berries, mint, lemon, lime, oranges or kiwi fruit to give water some flavour.

Muesli or fruit bars
A healthier alternative is…
Apple and Oat Pikelets:

1. Place ¾ cup self-raising flour and ½ cup rolled oats into a mixing bowl and stir
2. Separately, mix together 1 lightly beaten egg, ¾ cup milk, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 grated apple. Pour into the flour and oat mixture and stir to combine
4. Spray a frypan with oil on medium heat
5. Place ¼ cup of mixture on pan and cook until bubbles form, then turn and cook for another 1-2 minutes.