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6 Lunch Box Snacks that are Junk Food in Disguise

28 Jan 2020

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Are Your Child's Snacks Healthy?

Marketing claims and hard-to-understand food labels can fool even the most nutrition-savvy customers. Massey University has reported that 90% of school lunch boxes don’t meet nutritional guidelines.

Supporting parents in their bid to keep kids healthy, the University of Newcastle (Australia) has identified six of the most common unhealthy snacks that frequently appear in lunchboxes and some yummy substitutes to try.

1. Muesli bars

Ask health authorities and they’ll tell you that most muesli bars lining grocery aisles are mere glorified candy bars with some healthy ingredients such as oats, nuts and seeds. With added flavours and sweeteners, these “healthy snacks for kids” come loaded with energy, sugar and fat.

Knowing this, do you really think they qualify as a healthy lunch box idea?

SWAP these wannabe health bars for fresh fruit, raw unsalted nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or roasted fava beans. Don’t forget to check for the school’s policy of carrying nuts in lunch boxes!

2. Dairy desserts

Placement of products in supermarket aisles is an art and science. Smart placement, however, often leaves the consumer confused or led astray.

For instance, placing dairy desserts such as custards and rice puddings next to yoghurts may have you believing they’re healthy, which isn’t true. These desserts are rich in sugar and fat with generally little nutritional value.

SWAP dairy desserts for reduced fat yoghurt (why not choose natural yoghurt, as it contains no added sugar and add some frozen fruit to keep the cost down and the yoghurt chilled).

3. Pre-packaged cheese-dip and crackers

Convenient as it may be, pre-packaged cheesy dip often contains less than 50% cheese. What you purchase as a healthy snack, often contains little calcium and a lot of added ingredients.

SWAP pre-packaged cheesy dip and crackers for wholegrain water crackers, wholegrain rice crackers or vegetable sticks with sliced cheese or mini tubs of hummus or tzatziki.

4. Fruit drinks

They must be healthy because they come from fruit, right?

Not really! Most fruit juices you find in the supermarket have very little fruit and a lot of sugar. This means what you’re putting into your kid’s lunch box is high-calorie, low-fibre, fruit-flavoured, sugar water.

SWAP the sugary juices for plain water. You can always add a few slices of fresh lemon, strawberries or cucumber.

5. Savoury biscuits

Many savoury biscuits claim to be baked, not fried. In your mind that would tick the box of healthy snack, right?

Far from being healthy, savoury biscuits can be baked in just as much fat or oil as those that are fried. Many savoury biscuits contain 20-25% fat and lots of added salt.

SWAP savoury biscuits for plain air-popped popcorn, rice crackers, rice cakes or roasted legume snacks.

6. ‘Natural’ fruit strings

Far from a healthy lunch box idea, fruit string and leather can be just another highly processed treat with all water content removed. Loaded in sugar, fruit string can lack the nutrients and vitamins fresh fruit contains - no wonder the kids love them!

SWAP for fresh fruit and vegetables – with extra points if you choose in-season produce!

Everyday’ lunch box ideas for kids

But that’s not the end of the challenge… there’s no point putting something in the lunch box if it’s only going to end up in the bin or traded for a packet of chips. Here are some ideas: • Crunch & Sip break (otherwise known as a fruit break): A serve of vegetables or fruit like cherry tomatoes, strawberries or grapes. • Morning Tea: An everyday snack like plain popcorn, yoghurt or rice crackers and cheese. • Lunch: A sandwich, wrap or bread roll (salad and cheese) or last night’s leftovers (chicken breast and vegetables) and an extra piece of fruit or a serve of vegetables (for example, celery and carrot sticks). • Plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Don’t try to make all changes together. You can start improving your child’s health today by making one simple SWAP and work your way up, introducing a new healthy idea each week.