Lunchbox no-nos: 6 things best left OUT of school lunches

Finding the perfect balance between foods our kids will actually eat at school and good nutrition can leave many a parent tearing their hair out – and it can be tempting to opt for easy, pre-packaged options.

But think twice before grabbing just anything off the supermarket shelf; a lot of store-bought products aimed at kids, and disguised as nutritious, leave a lot to be desired when it comes to healthy eating.

Let’s take a look at some of the leading culprits:

Flavoured yoghurts:

Yoghurt is generally touted as being a good guy in the health department. But, as Choice revealed in a report on this dairy favourite, many yoghurts aimed at kids are more akin to a fully-loaded dessert, with some brands containing up to eight teaspoons of sugar per serve! Nutrition professionals say that plain yoghurt is best, and always look for no more than 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

Deli meats

Good ol’ chicken loaf and ham might have been sandwich staples throughout the years, but practical as they are, many of these processed meats are extremely high in sodium and contain many preservatives, including nitrites. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that we give processed meats a miss altogether, linking it to cancer. Go for cooked, lean meats instead.

Fat-laden muesli bars

Granola bars and other muesli bars are the masters of disguise. Containing healthy ingredients such as oats, seeds, and in some cases, nuts, it’s easy to grab a packet of these for the kids thinking they are the perfect snack. Think again. Many muesli bars are loaded with added sugar and come packing a high-fat punch. Check those labels carefully, or better still, make your own delicious bars at home.

Fruit sticks, strips and bars

You know those sticky, sweet things that kids ogle in the supermarket? They might claim to have a percentage of natural fruit juice in them, but on closer inspection you might be surprised to find the high amounts of concentrated sugar in each serve – never a good thing for little bodies and, according to dentists, disastrous when it comes to kids’ dental health.

Juices and flavoured milks

Fruit juice is not the same as eating a piece of fruit, just as flavoured milk does not have the same nutritional value of plain milk. According to the Department of Health, sweet drinks are not necessary for kids to be healthy. Worse, they fill kids up with empty calories when they should be eating nutritious food, they contribute to tooth decay, and drinking them is habit-forming. Water is best!

Stinky foods

This has less to do with nutrition and more about how your child feels at school. Kids can be pretty unforgiving if a waft of something stinky joins the lunch circle! And while mum’s curried sausages might be a hit at home, it’s probably best left there.

Fear not, the arduous task of keeping up with every new superfood is not the only path to good nutrition for our kids – besides, a lot of kids would rather piff a kale salad into the pine bark than eat it. Nutritionists advise that it’s quite simple: kids are best served whole foods and minimally processed foods that are less likely to contain unwanted fats, sugars and chemicals that growing bodies can do without. So stock up the fruit bowl!

Here’s to a fun and healthy school year for our littlies.

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