The Nutrition Expert Editorial Team August 11, 2017

 It’s easy to be tempted to fill your child’s lunchbox with all sorts of sweet treats to keep them happy whilst at school, but could you be allowing them a few too many indulgent snacks?

In 2016 a study was carried out by Leeds University that revealed just 1.6% of packed lunches for primary school children met nutritional standards that the same schools’ can-teen meals were meeting.

Not only this, compared with a similar study carried out in 2006, the number of children who ate salad and vegetables with their lunch, which was found to be 17% in the 2006 study, had not altered a single bit.

In the 2016 study:

  • 52%-60% of lunchboxes contained too many sweet and savoury snacks;
  • 42% contained sugary drinks.

Considering sweet and savoury snacks and sugary drinks contain such a large amount of saturated fat, sugar and salt and such a little amount of all-important vitamins and minerals, these are statistics that certainly need to be rectified.

The NHS Change4Life campaign outlines some great changes to make so that your childrens’ lunchboxes are a whole lot less sugary, and many popular but sugary snacks can be easily replaced without needing to be any less exciting. Children love finger food, so chop-ping up raw veggies and providing a cottage cheese or hummus dip is a great way to pack in plenty of vitamins and avoid offering unhealthier options like chocolate or sweets.

Do be careful of dried fruit though as despite their sugar content being natural, it’s easy to eat too much and this can be bad for your teeth.

What does a healthier lunchbox look like?1

  • Include fresh fruit and vegetables/salad;
  • Include a source of protein such as beans and pulses, eggs, fish, meat, cheese (or dairy alternative);
  • Include a side dish such as a low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt (or dairy alternative), tea cake, fruit bread, plain rice/corn cakes, homemade plain popcorn, sugar-free jelly;
  • Include a drink such as water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks.

What to be careful of

  • Cola and juice drinks;
  • Sugary cereals or cereal bars;
  • Flavoured yoghurt or any yoghurt with added sugar;
  • Biscuits
  • Chilled, mini desserts such as a chocolate mousse

What to offer your kids instead

  • Water, lower fat milk juice drinks that don’t contain added sugar
  • Plain cereal and plain porridge with natural sugars such as fruit for added sweetness
  • Plain yoghurt and banana
  • Small amounts of nuts, rice cakes with a measured amount of peanut butter
  • Sugar free jelly

Everyone needs a treat now and again, but we think a good mantra to live by when it comes to food is to consider whether what you’re eating or drinking is providing ingredients like vitamins and minerals that will contribute to normal bodily function.

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/childhealth6-15/Pages/Lighterlunchboxes.aspx

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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