food

“If you’re feeding your kids these healthy snacks right now, here’s why you should stop.”

As a parent, choosing the right food to fill your child’s lunchbox can be a real battleground.

In an ideal world, every child would be sent off for the day with a nutritionally sound lunch, but often even when we think we are making the right choices, we’re actually not.

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"As a parent, choosing the right food to fill your child’s lunchbox can be a real battleground." Image via iStock.

The problem is that due to sneaky advertising, confusing labelling or consumer misinformation, it’s not always easy to know what the best options are.

Here are some common lunchbox treats which might need a rethink.

1. Cereals.

This is one area of advertising which really annoys me, because as a parent of two young children, I know what a gauntlet I need to run in order to get an appropriate breakfast cereal into my trolley.

Colourful packaging, recognisable characters and giveaways detract from the reality of breakfast cereals aimed at children which is often a box filled with high amounts of sugar, high levels of salt and little to no nutritional content.

Instead, try swapping artificially coloured and sweetened cereals for muesli and yoghurt in the mornings and be sure to choose yoghurt with little fat and sugar added.

2. Fruit juice.

There is actually no reason for fruit juices and cordials to have a place in your child’s diet. It’s often just an unnecessary, sugar-laden addition.

Instead, encourage your children to drink water throughout the day from an early age to stay hydrated.

To jazz up the water, you can always try adding some fresh fruit or herbs for flavour (without the sugar), and a quick trip around Pinterest can fill you with inspiration. My personal favourite is the good old fashioned lemon, which not only kick-starts your metabolism in the mornings, but is also great for healthy skin.

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"To jazz up the water, you can always try adding some fresh fruit or herbs for flavour" Image via iStock.

3. Dried fruit.

Be careful when it comes to labelling and packaging of dried fruit because often, it’s sugar city. Unnatural additives are also likely to be high on the ingredients list.

For example, did you know that dried sultanas contain almost twice the amount of sugar as that of dried apricots? This one shocked me because sultanas were previously a regular fixture on my lunch menu. As is always the case when it comes to fruit, fresh is best.

4. Cheese and crackers.

Many parents are lured into thinking that pre-packaged cheese spread and cracker combinations are an appropriate choice for their children’s lunchbox. In actual fact, the nutritional value of cheese spreads is very low. Not only are calcium levels way below what you would expect, but they are also likely to be high in salt, sugar and kilojoules.

An easy swap when it comes to calcium-based options for the lunchbox are cheese sticks, or better still, crackers and cheese that you’ve assessed individually as being good options.

"Crackers and cheese that you’ve assessed individually as being good options." Image via iStock.
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5. Flavoured rice wheels.

Many parents opt for flavoured rice wheels as a healthier alternative to chips - but they can still contain very high levels of salt and artificial flavourings.

The best option for crunchy lunchbox treats is popcorn and it’s always better (and cheaper) to make up a big batch at home and package it up for on-the-go snacking. That way, you know exactly what’s going into it.

6. Fruit tubs and pouches.

Handy? Yes, but also a common trap when it comes to parents believing they have chosen a healthy lunchbox addition to send their kids to school with. It really pays to read the labels and packaging on pouches and fruit crush-type products.

While some contain high fruit content (watch the sugar and additives though) some similar products have only 10 per cent fruit content. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – fresh is ALWAYS best.

What healthy snacks do feed your kids?

Feeling inspired? Why not try your hand at healthy lunch box options with these bizarre yet cool fruit and vegetable slicers:

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