Do you know the true nutritional content of your child’s school lunchbox? If you opt for foods that are specifically aimed at children, you may be shocked to hear that they’re not as healthy as they make out…
After all the hoo-ha about school meals from Jamie Oliver a few years ago you’d be forgiven for thinking that, by now, most school children are happily tucking in to healthy school meals.
You’d be wrong.
The popularity of packed lunches
We spoke to 1,000 parents and over half (54%) still pack a lunch for their kids. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – unless that box is packed with the wrong kind of food.
‘We’ve found all too often that foods promoted as good choices for school lunchboxes are anything but,’ explains our food expert Sue Davies. ‘While some are obviously unhealthy snacks, the sugar, salt or fat content in others is not always obvious and you really need to scrutinise the labels.’
Sadly, eight in ten parents who gave their child a packed lunch told us they included these kinds of pre-packed ‘children’s foods’ in the lunchbox – you know the ones: Dairylea Lunchables; Frubes; Fruit Shoots.
The problem is, they’re marketed brilliantly, so kids open up their lunchbox and willingly eat what’s inside, but I’d bet that many parents just don’t realise the true nutritional content (or the lack of) that these foods contain.
The truth about children’s food
Take a Petit Filous Frube, for example. Yoghurt in a tube – how unhealthy can that be? Would you be shocked to learn it contains almost 15% sugar? I know I was.
And that’s nothing compared to Fruit Factory Fruit Strings, which are almost 50% sugar – each 20g serving contains 9.6g sugar. But the absolute shocker for me is the four teaspoons of sugar in Robinsons Fruit Shoot Juice (blackcurrant and apple). Not only is this a quarter of a five- to ten-year-old’s guideline daily amount of sugar, it’s also a product that sells itself on the basis of having ‘no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners’.
So what’s the answer? ‘As with all processed foods, we’d like to see clear traffic light labelling on the front so it’s obvious what’s a healthy choice and what isn’t,’ says Sue. ‘But it’s also important that food companies are more responsible in the way they market foods.’
I couldn’t agree more. My daughter is still young enough to be ignorant to these products, but it won’t be long until she’s at school and peer pressure kicks in. That doesn’t mean I’ll cave in and fill her lunchbox with these baddies, but it will make it harder to ensure she eats a healthy, balanced lunch everyday.
Have you used this kind of food to fill your child’s lunchbox – and are you shocked to hear what’s actually in them? Are your children so hooked on the sugar content and blinded by marketing spin that they won’t eat anything else, or have you managed to stick to healthier options?