Continuing the theme of what we should be feeding our children, this report from Which? is very enlightening, demonstrating just how easy it is to compromise the quality of food we feed the family for the sake of convenience.
Children’s foods loaded with sugar and salt.
16 November 2009
Your child’s lunch box could contain more than 12 teaspoons of sugar, according to a new report in Which? magazine.
Which? experts assessed the nutrition content of items targeted at children’s lunch boxes and found the healthy impression they gave was far from reality.
Lunchbox foods high in salt and sugar
Which? bought brand-leading items that fit into children’s lunch boxes and assessed their nutritional content in September 2009. Those found to be high in salt and sugar include:
- Dairylea Lunchables Ham ‘n’ Cheese Crackers – one pack contains 1.8g of salt, more than half the daily allowance of a 4 – 6 year old.
- Fruit Shoot Orange Juice Drink, each 200ml bottle is made up of 23g of sugar – almost 5 teaspoons.
- Frosties Cereal Milk Bars – made up of seven different sugars, the 25g bar is almost a third (8g) sugar.
- Munch Bunch Double Up Fromage Frais contains more than two teaspoons (12.4g) of sugar but only 2.25g of fruit purée.
Children up and down the country are eating these foods regularly. High in salt and sugar, there is hardly any fibre, protein or nutrients in such pre-packed goods. So what are the alternatives?
We want to ensure that a lunch box includes a good source of protein, some whole grain carbohydrate for energy, and some vegetables. Fruit is an option if the child’s gut ecology is balanced.
So what can this look like as a packed lunch? A pot of cooked rice/quinoa/couscous with cooked beans – chickpeas/red kidney/blackeye, with peas and sweetcorn is easy to prepare in advance and makes a good alternative to sandwiches. Simply cook extra grain the night before and stir in some ready cooked beans and defrosted peas and sweetcorn. Swap the grain for a whole grain pasta – wholewheat/brown rice/buckwheat/maize, and add some cooked and flaked oily fish – salmon, mackerel, or chopped hard boiled egg. Add grated carrot for colour, texture, nutrients and fibre. Make sure the lunch pot is flavoursome, adding some extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed seed oils to moisten the ingredients, along with some herbs such as chives.
Whole grain pitta breads or whole grain crackers, oat cakes (great to make at home with the children) with organic cream cheese, home-made humus (shop-bought is highly salted) or pieces of cooked meat, or a home-made bean pattie will all supply important nutrients for a growing child.
Add a little bundle of raw veggie sticks – carrot, celery, cucumber, red pepper, radishes and baby tomatoes.
The packaging of foods is so important when a child’s friends all have brightly coloured, manufactured pots and packets. To compete with this buy stickers to add to the little pots, and use Baco Rainbow Snack Bags for veggies and fruit.
Look out for novelty cutlery forks to go in the lunch box to make eating the rice and pasta pots more exciting!
Water really is the best drink for everyone, so it is well worth investing in a BPA free bottle that can safely be re-used. These are now getting easier to find, coming in a variety of sizes and colours.
This does all require a little more thought, but reducing the sugars and additives in children’s foods may support both their immediate and long-term health.