food

A healthy lunchbox may not look like you think it does.

Parenting tasks that are unexpectedly hard, number eleventy five: school lunches.

Planning school lunches almost takes a degree in project management.

Think about everything that goes into getting a packed nutritious lunch into a Tupperware box, into a school bag and actually eaten at the appropriate time in a school yard.

Planning, purchasing, preparing.

You have to consider what will suit your child’s taste, what can be kept unrefrigerated for a few hours, what will provide a healthy well balanced meal.

Of all the things we thought would be difficult, did anyone expect lunch to be on the list?

And it seems the system is not really set up to help us, either. Working out what is healthy and what isn’t – it feels like that task is becoming increasingly difficult.

We’re not idiots, we mothers. But sometimes, standing in front of the shopping centre shelves I feel like a deer in the headlights.

Lunch box drinks seem like a relatively simple affair, when compared to muesli bars and cheese and crackers, right? Water and juice good. Sugary soft drinks bad.

But perhaps not.

The Obesity Policy Coalition have put together data the lunchbox drinks you and I are probably sticking in our weekly shopping trolleys, and it's disturbing.

Comparison of sugar in fruit drinks. Source: Obesity Policy Coalition.
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I don’t think I could name a single parent that would ever consider putting a soft drink in their child’s lunch box. But I do know parents that regularly put juice poppers in.

The question is, are they juice or are they flavoured sugar water? And if they’re flavoured sugar water, how do we know? Because flavoured sugar water, “fruit drink”, is in many cases worse than Cola.

Jane Martin is the Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition. “Most parents wouldn’t dream of putting soft drink in their children’s lunchboxes, however many of these fruit drinks should also be consumed occasionally, not every day. Water and a piece of fruit are much healthier choices,” Martin says.

"It's difficult for parents to cut through the marketing. Even I have mother's guilt. I used to put these drinks in my children's lunchboxes many years ago, because I just didn't know."

Martin says that the problem is partly marketing and partly convenience. But she also says, it's partly labelling.

"Sugar is listed in the nutritional information panel on these drinks, but it's listed in grams. We need that information in a more meaningful context. In America they’re looking to put the number of teaspoons of sugar on food packaging to help people understand how much sugar is in food."

Stop the train. I want to get off. It shouldn’t be this hard.

I shouldn't have to compare poppers to soft drinks, and I certainly shouldn’t have to compare varieties of poppers in order to limit my child’s sugar intake.

How do you keep a lid on sugar in your child's lunchbox? Share your tips and help us out.

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