With children back to school, it’s important to strive to make your kids a balanced and nutritious lunch box. We’ve got some top tips on how to reduce sugar in your child’s school lunch.

Tabitha Acret, Dental Hygienist and ambassador for the AIRFLOW Dental Spa highlights the dangers that can occur when children consume too much sugar.

Dangers Of Sugar

Sugar can lead to many negative health outcomes for not just the general public, but our children as well. In 2018, an estimated 28% of children and adolescents in Australia were overweight or obese. Diets high in sugar can lead to concentration problems, poor health outcomes and can cause oral health problems such as decay. This can contribute to a painful mouth and teeth, lack of concentration, missed school and therefore loss of learning.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children eat no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. Many parents think they’ve packed their child a healthy lunch but a lot of options on the supermarket shelves are high in sugar. Always look at the nutritional panel on the back of your food. Something labeled ‘healthy’ isn’t always as it seems.

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How To Reduce Sugar

Tabitha suggests some top tips on how to reduce sugar from your child’s lunch box and snacks.

Choose natural ingredients and products. 

Calcium is great for our children and yoghurt is a healthy snack in itself. Unfortunately, not all yoghurts are created equal in the sugar department. This ‘healthy’ snack we get our kids can sometimes contain more sugar than soft drink. Stick to the Greek variety or natural yoghurts, and add fresh fruit for flavour rather than the artificially flavoured yoghurts.

Ban the muesli bars.

Muesli bars are somewhat of a staple in our kids’ school lunch boxes. They are convenient and the advertising and packaging tends to imply they are a healthy alternative. However, muesli bars can be filled with sugar – sometimes even more than a doughnut! They contain little amounts of fibre and therefore are not filling your little one up for long either. Read the labels and aim for lower sugar products or else you’ll be left with muesli bars that have a 40% sugar content! The daily recommended intake for children sits at less than 25 grams, so when picking an appropriate muesli bar, try and keep it under 8 grams.

Water always wins.

When filling our kids drink bottles for school there is plenty of pressure to add a little something extra to the water. Our supermarkets aisles are filled with flavoured options, giving kids the impression that they are a healthy and acceptable alternative to water. More often than not these waters are filled with sugar, so I can’t recommend enough that it’s best to stick to freshwater for school.

Dread the spread.

The fillings on our children’s sandwiches can have a huge impact on their daily sugar consumption. Nutella is on average 58%, jam 60%, and honey a staggering 80%. Not only are we thinking of the sugar, but the sugar crash, and sustaining their energy levels for longer periods of learning. Stick to your lean meat, cheeses, and salads for a far more satisfying feed.

What are your tips to reduce sugar in your child’s diet? Tell us in the comments below.


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  • Make sandwiches with bread that isn’t white, and make as many ingredients yourself so you know the sugar content, and stop giving them sugary drinks including fruit drinks.


  • I don’t think banning museli bars as a blanket statement is helpful. We make our own museli bars and there are no refined sugars in them, plenty of healthy seeds and fats /oils


  • I make homemade muesli bars and they are good!


  • Water is all that is packed for drinks. For the rest I keep it mostly healthy but a sneak in a treat once a week if she has been doing her homework

    • We drink a lot of water too and have sugar in moderation; like all things.


  • Good suggestions. My kids have a heap of fruit and veg in their lunchboxes, sometimes I’d love to just throw in something unhealthy and easy, that requires little preparation.


  • Just about everything we eat contains some sugar. It’s hard to know what doesn’t contain at least a small amount of sugar. Best idea is to eat whatever you want but in moderation.


  • Moderation! It’s great to offer everything, but when you have fussy eaters… you do what works. It evens out in the end.


  • I’m trying to do this as my son is so fussy! Doesn’t help that his dad is a sweet tooth


  • All of those spreads are a weekend treat only in our house!


  • Well the picture shows a slice of white bread. You could start with ditching the white bread for a wholemeal multi seeded loaf and less processed foods. Spreads can be a killer but doesn’t have to be. Pana has for example a beautiful raw chocolate spread, and there are jams without added sugar on the market. And what about peanut butter, that’s also a spread and you can buy them without added sugar. Read the labels indeed !


  • It’s so hard, so many foods have sugars these days


  • So important


  • In this day and age we shouldn’t be stressing parents out about school lunches. Just pack some natural foods, steer away from lollies, chips and biscuits, for your kids and they will be fine.


  • My tips to avoid the sugar trap for kids lunchboxes would be to make most foods yourself, from scratch. This probably won’t eliminate sugar, it’s just about everywhere, but you will know exactly how much is in the food. And stick to natural products, fresh fruit and veggies, meat, yoghurt etc


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