In part four of our back to school series in collaboration with Mintie Lunchboxes we’re talking about things to look out for when buying pre-packaged lunchbox foods from the supermarket. You can find part one here where we looked at children’s nutritional needs throughout the busy school day, part two introduced a simple formula for putting together nourishing lunchboxes, and part three included tips and tricks to make things run a bit more smoothly.

School days are busy and whilst we hope our recipes and tips have encouraged you to make some homemade batches of muffins and bars for your children’s lunchboxes, it’s not realistic to think that it will be possible to do this every day. Pre-packaged foods from the supermarket can save the day when time is short, but some are more nourishing than others so it’s worth knowing what to look out for at the supermarket. Here are some of our top tips.

  • As much as possible, keep it real. Choose fresh food that actually looks like food. If it’s packaged to last on a supermarket shelf for months then the chances are it’s full of preservatives and other chemicals.
  • Make a habit of reading labels. Look at the ingredients list and try to stick to the simple rule that if you don’t know what an ingredient is, and wouldn’t find it in your kitchen, it’s probably best not to give it to your children.
  • Also have a look at the traffic light symbol on the front of the package. The traffic light system is voluntary so not all products have it on their labels, but it can provide useful information. Avoid anything with the red traffic light for sugar, salt and saturated fat.
  • Consider that nutrition labels show the percentages of an ADULTS recommended daily intake, so this will be a higher percentage for children. If the sugar or salt content is high for an adults recommended intake then it’s definitely going to be too much for children.
  • Food companies are in the business of making money, not necessarily looking after children’s wellbeing so look beyond the advertising and clever marketing at what is actually in the box or packet. If it says ‘natural’ on the packaging then have a quick check of the ingredients to make sure that’s really the case.
  • Full-fat foods are good. When foods like cheese and yoghurt have the natural fat content reduced or removed, it’s often replaced by sugar and/or thickeners. However, look out for ‘partially hydrogenated fat/oil’ or ‘hydrogenated fat/oil’ on food labels as these products contain harmful trans fats.
  • Choose carefully – there are always choices, even when you’re in a hurry. Choosing to make better choices becomes a habit.
  • Adding extra fruit and veg to a lunchbox can be an easier habit to introduce than taking away a favourite packaged food. Start by adding some extra nutrition to the lunchbox alongside their regular lunchbox items and work towards including more nourishing foods. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach, small changes add up to a big difference when you make them consistently across the weeks and months.

Here are some pre-packaged foods that use whole ingredients:

Mintie Sustainable Lunchboxes

Mintie Lunchboxes are amazing and always make lunches look so much more exciting and appealing for kids. We love their Snug stainless steel lunchbox which is leakproof and comes with a snack pot and a cotton lunch bag. They’re super child-friendly and easy to open / close.

I love the thought and care that has been put in to the design of the lunchboxes – they’re 100% recyclable, free from all plastic, durable and built to last and last. If you’re looking for a sustainable lunchbox then head over to their website, and use the code ‘munch10‘ for 10% off your order.

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