It may shock you to find out that kids’ lunchboxes can contain up to 40 teaspoons of sugar which can lead to energy highs and lows, mood swings, weight gain and potential risk of diabetes later in life. We’re so thrilled to be featuring certified Paediatric Nutritionist Mandy Sacher, our JSHealth Kids Health Expert, on the blog today to share the best ways to cut down children’s sugar intake.
For most mums, it’s a daily challenge trying to pack a lunchbox with healthy foods that kids will actually eat. Unfortunately, most “healthy” supermarket foods are anything but that, despite what the packaging may claim. Just last month, the ACCC announced that it was taking food giant Heinz to court over its Little Kids Shredz products, which contain more than 60 percent sugar. And as we know, excessive sugar is a leading cause of issues such as tooth decay, behavioural problems, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
As filmmaker Damon Gameau demonstrated in That Sugar Film, some kids lunchboxes can contain up to 40 teaspoons of sugar in the form of “healthy” foods, such as organic apple and blackcurrant juice, sesame snaps, fruit bars, organic sultanas, a muffin bar, fruity bites, a fruit jelly pack and a jam sandwich.
So here are 15 simple and easy swaps that will help slash your kids daily sugar intake and hopefully also mean their lunchboxes come home empty. The benefits are HUGE and as a result your kids will have better concentration at school, more stable moods (less tantrums and tears!) and will go to sleep far more easily at night.
10 Simple Lunchbox Swaps
- Swap sultanas for grapes A small pack of Sunbeam sultanas contains five teaspoons of sugar. Five to six (cut) grapes contain only 1 teaspoon by comparison.
- Swap sweet popcorn for salty popcorn. Just as tasty but much less sugar!
- Swap “squeezy” yoghurts for reusable pouches filled with natural yoghurt sweetened with a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey. Most squeezy yoghurts contain around three teaspoons of sugar.
- Dilute everything If your child likes chocolate milk dilute it with natural milk, dilute fruit juice with water, dilute sugary yoghurt with natural yoghurt, and tomato ketchup with plain passata.
- Use sugar substitutes Reduce the sugar content of home-made baked goods by adding in dates or a few drops of 100% natural stevia powder (not mixed with erythirtol)
- Mix jam sandwiches with peanut butter or for a school-friendly version, mix with sunflower butter.
- Swap sports drinks with flavoured coconut water. Gatorade has 9 teaspoons of sugar while coconut water contains just 1-2 teaspoons.
- Swap supermarket bars Snack bars, granola bars, muesli bars all contain sugar – get used to reading the labels of these products so you pick the ones with the least amount of sugar in them. Carmen’s Original Fruit muesli bar has less sugar than Milo Energy Snack bars, for example.
- Swap raisin toast for wholemeal toast
- Swap store-bought crumpets for home-made pancakes or pancake mixes that don’t contain sugar
Plus Five More Tips For the Home
- When buying treats, choose a child-sized package rather than a large one.
- Decant treats into smaller portions rather than taking along the whole bag of treats when you’re out and about.
- Swap 100% drinking chocolate for a blend of drinking chocolate, carob, cacao powder and a little stevia.
- Keep junk food out of the home Have set times for desserts or treats, like on a Saturday morning after sport is the time when you go and get ice-cream, so children don’t nag and pester but know when to expect “sometimes” foods.
- Swap sugary breakfast cereal for a wholegrain breakfast cereal and sprinkle a little of your child’s favourite sugary one on top while they are transitioning. Another great trick is to sweeten with teaspoon of carob powder – your child will think it’s a chocolate cereal.
Mandy Sacher is a certified Paediatric Nutritionist and Founder of Wholesome Child. Her clinical practice focuses on prenatal and childhood nutrition, helping parents and mums-to-be-feed their children healthy, nourishing foods right from the start.
She has appeared recently on Channel Ten’s Everyday Health and is currently writing her first book, The Wholesome Child Nutrition Guide and Recipe Book, which will be available to purchase mid-April. www.wholesomechild.com.au