This looks like the average Aussie kid’s lunch box. A sandwich, a few snacks and a drink. Pretty normal, right?
But this typical lunch box is a sign of a worrying trend – time poor parents reaching for convenient snacks, and Cancer Council NSW says this seemingly innocent lunch is packed with nasties.
In fact, a school lunch box with a ham sandwich, BBQ Shapes, Fruit Roll Up, Yogo custard and a fruit drink contains twice the sugar, is twice the cost and has only half of the fibre compared to a healthy lunch box containing a cheese and tomato sandwich, yoghurt, fruit and veggies and a drink bottle filled with water.
But if this is what your child’s lunch box looks like, you’re not alone.
“We recently polled a group of parents and found that 70% of them purchased pre-packaged snacks from supermarkets because it saved them time, they were easy to pack in the lunch box or because their kids pestered them to buy them,” Cancer Council NSW’s Senior Nutrition Program Officer, Nina Tan explained.
Cancer Council NSW analysed 140 popular lunch box snacks, from the snack sections of Woolworths, Coles and ALDI. It found that almost 80% were unhealthy, despite the packaging claiming ‘no artificial colours or additives, ‘no preservatives’, and ‘made with real ingredients.’
“We’re particularly concerned because we know that snacks are a big part of the diets of kids, particularly in their lunch boxes. 44% of energy that Australian children consume at school comes from discretionary foods, such as sweet and savoury biscuits and cereal bars. If a child consumes too many of these foods over time it can contribute to unhealthy weight gain,” Ms Tan said.
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“We know it’s not easy for parents, and food companies are only making it harder. When it comes to pre-packaged foods, companies are plastering them with nutrition-related marketing claims like ‘source of calcium’ or ‘no artificial…’, and adding colours, cartoon characters and fonts designed to draw in both parents and kids,” Ms Tan said.
“Bright colours, cartoon animals and fun shapes are used to attract children, and text like ‘no need to chill’ and ‘the perfect lunchbox biscuits’ are used to appeal to parents’ desire to make easy and quick lunch box choices for their kids, but these snacks can be packed with sugar, salt and kilojoules and often don’t provide children with the nutrients they need.
“Labelling claims are appealing to time-poor parents who are looking for convenient and healthy pre-packaged snacks, but the foods aren’t always as healthy as they seem.”
The average school child eats more than 2500 lunches over 13 years at school, which highlights just how important it is to make the right choice when packing their lunch.We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.