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Lunchbox Sugar Swaps

Kate Freeman

So here we are, at the start of another school term!

For many mums and dads across the ACT, this means the return of making school lunch boxes – a daily task which can get a little tricky.

Sometimes it can be easy to pop quick, packaged snacks into our child’s day, but many of these snacks contain a significant amount of added sugar and this can quickly add up across the day. Too much added sugar in our family’s food and drinks can contribute to weight gain.

The good news is that simple, healthy swaps to your family’s eating habits each day can make a big difference to reversing the poor health associated with a high sugar intake. Childhood is the perfect time to start teaching these healthy food habits. You might be surprised how a little information and some simple food swaps may be embraced by your kids. Some kids may take a little bit longer, but if you’re consistent, supportive and you try and do the same—they’ll probably follow.

Continuing on from our sugar-swap series, I’d like to encourage you with a big pep talk (you can do it!) to keep these healthy food swaps going and make some tweaks to your child’s lunch box. Even just one or two changes can make a big difference. You don’t have to do anything drastic or overhaul their entire lunch box: keep it simple, realistic and easy. Never ever underestimate the power of baby steps!

So, to help you on your sugar swap journey, I’m giving a ‘typical’ school lunch box a sugar swap ‘makeover’!

Take a look at the lunch box pictured below – the first is an example of a lunchbox with high added sugar while the second includes healthier options:

Lunchbox 4556

Lunchbox 4778

Some points to consider:

Dried fruit contains natural sugars and can also contain added sugars. Drying fruit can concentrate the natural sugars making it easier to over-consume. Fresh fruit is a better choice.

When making baked goods for your child’s lunchbox, you can have much more control over the added sugar. Here are some tips:

  • Use wholemeal flour
  • Add wheat biscuits, oats, bran and seeds for a fibre boost
  • Reduce the added sugar – it often doesn’t need as much as the recipe calls for.

Even one swap with your child’s lunch box makes a difference. It’s simply about aiming to take something with high sugar out and add in something nutritious. It’s a great step in the right direction!

Don’t forget to check out my previous article with a week’s worth of lunch box ideas including recipes and shopping lists. Also, check out this article for heaps more sugar swap ideas:

The video below shows you how simple swaps can reduce added sugars. The lunchbox swap shown in this video takes you from 52.7g to 2g total of added sugars. (Post continues after video).

Take home points:

  • Always include a vegetable or two. They add colour, nutrients and are the cornerstone of healthy eating. Put them in front of your children regularly, including their lunch box.
  • Never underestimate the power of baby steps. Even one or two small swaps a day can reduce your child’s sugar intake. Start slow and be consistent. It will make a difference.
  • Don’t keep unhelpful food in the house. By unhelpful, I mean foods high in sugar and low in nutrition. This is the best way to help kids learn between ‘everyday’ and ‘sometimes’ foods, by how available they are from day to day.
  • Involve the whole family and write out a weekly lunch box plan. This will help you stay organised and prepared to have healthy, fresh food available to pop into the lunch box each day!

For more useful tips to help your family eat well, visit ACT Health’s Good Habits for Life website

The website has details about Fresh Tastes: healthy food at school, which has some fantastic resources for helping to create healthy lunchboxes with food ideas, portion sizes and the different food groups to include each day.

This is a sponsored post. For more information on our sponsored post policy, click here. 


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

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