"A nutritionist looked inside my kids' school lunchboxes..."

It wasn’t good.

One of my favourite people to discuss child nutrition with is dietitian and nutritionist Susie Burrell.

But she’s just given me some advice on what to pack my children for school lunches that I’ll never be able to follow.

Here’s what my kids will be eating at school this week:

Philip, 10-years-old.

Recess: Pizza Shapes and an apple.

Lunch: 2 corn thins with butter and vegemite and a juice popper.

Giovanni, 6-years-old.

Recess: Pretzels and a banana.

Lunch: A plain bread roll and 6 Ritz crackers.

Caterina, 5 years-old.

Recess: Rice Wheels and a nectarine.

Lunch: A ham sandwich and 6 Ritz crackers.

Pretty normal, right? Or am I the only Australian mum completely reliant on carbs to feed my kids at school?

Susie would only give me one tick for these choices. She says it’s time to break our reliance on carbs in our kid’s school lunches.

“As a nutritionist who has spent more than ten years working with overweight children and teens I have one request for all the mums out their this school year for kids lunch ideas. Please do not over-carb your kids school lunchbox,” she said.

Susie Burrell.

Susie then points the finger and some of the usual suspects. Most of which are sitting in my pantry just waiting for their turn in those brown, paper bags. On the no-go list:

  • Muesli bars
  • Plain white bread sandwiches
  • Fruit juice
  • Snack bars
  • Biscuits

Susie explains:

Now while growing, active kids do need plenty of energy, energy in the form of processed, high sugar carbs such as fruit snacks, juices, snack bars and biscuits are digested quickly, result in a high release of the hormone insulin and leave kids prone to overeating and weight gain long term. A study completed several years back with Melbourne school children found that on average the kids lunchboxes contained 3 packaged snacks – bars, bites, twists and dips which offer little nutritionally except empty calories. Based on this alone it is not surprising that so many of our children have significant weight issues.

And you know how the kids come home from school saying they are "starving" and then proceed to eat the entire contents of your fridge? This is why, according to Susie:


It is this very reason that children return home at 3-4pm each day absolutely ravenous, simply as their digestive hormones are far less likely to be keeping them full and satisfied if their food intake has been largely carbohydrate in nature for the entire day. Overeating after school then leaves young children less likely to eat their dinner, a dinner of meat and vegetables that they need to get all of their essential nutrients and leaves their overall nutritional intake less than ideal.

To turn this around, Susie says parents need to find way to pack more protein in lunchboxes each day. She says we should making sandwiches using good quality bread filled with egg, lean meat or tuna.

Those parents worried about these proteins spoiling and making their children ill, she suggests freezing juice poppers or water bottles and placing them in the lunchbox next to the sandwich to keep it cool.

She has plenty more ideas:

Add just 1 piece of fruit and always one vegetable, one dairy based snack such as flavoured milk, cheese and crackers, a frozen yogurt tube or tub or some roasted chic nuts or broad beans. If you do choose to then also add a snack food keep it small and as minimally processed as possible - popcorn, homemade banana bread or mini muffins or wholegrain snack bars are good options

Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

So when you go to pack your children's school lunches this week, add some protein, keep snack foods small and make some of it yourself from scratch. I know Philip will eat yogurt, as long as it is in a tube, I know Giovanni will eat banana muffins, as long as they have chocolate chips in them and I know Caterina will eat cheese and crackers until the cows come home.

Can't be that hard, right?

What will your kids get in their school lunches this week?

SCROLL THROUGH the gallery for some great lunchbox ideas...

Read up on more of Susie's brilliant advice at

Want more? Try these:

"Keep our school lunches a fad-free zone.

How to get ready to go back to school without spending a fortune.

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