Supermarket shelves are full of lunchbox-sized snacks and packs, but despite what the packaging says, they’re not always as healthy as they might claim to be. Here are five common lunchbox snacks that aren’t as healthy as they often claim to be.
Poppers and fruit juices
Yes, fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals and provide a dose of energy, however, most supermarket-bought fruit juices contain added sugar and even 100% natural juice contains a large amount of natural sugar (from the fruit itself). Drinking juice instead of eating whole fruit also means your child isn’t getting any fibre, which is important for healthy digestion.
A piece of whole fruit is always the best option. You can try jazzing up your child’s water bottle by adding fresh fruit or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for flavour.
Muesli bars are nicely packaged and fit perfectly into a school lunchbox but they contain large amounts of added sugar, which might be honey, dried fruit, yoghurt toppings or chocolate.
Pack instead: A muesli bar with a high amount of wholegrains, such as oats or barley, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Check the ingredients list.
Flavoured milk can seem like a perfect solution to get your child to drink milk – it’s an excellent source of protein and calcium – but that chocolate/strawberry/banana flavour they love some much is due to added sugars.
Pack instead: Low fat (for children > 2 years old) plain milk is the preferred option, however, water is the best option.
Packets of biscuits, or ‘snack packs’
These lunchbox snacks do not offer any nutritional value – they are often “empty” foods, meaning they provide a short burst of energy, but don’t offer any of the vitamins, minerals and long-lasting energy that whole foods do.
Pack instead: Try making your own snack packs with wholegrain crackers or rice cakes and small slices or cubes of cheese. You could even add tomato or cucumber to spice things up. Air-popped popcorn is also a great option as a packaged snack – it’s high in wholegrains and low in fat and sugar.
Fruit bars and sticks also contain high amounts of added sugars, which, as mentioned above, provide kids with a short burst of energy but offer little else nutritionally speaking.
Pack instead: Fresh fruit is always best.