Lunch Box Logic- Making Decisions about Lunch Box items

Written by Bridget on . Posted in Lunchbox Logic

One of the fun activities I have the pleasure of undertaking at infrequent intervals, is visiting local childcare centres to facilitate workshops for the staff on Safe Food Handling Practice’s and Childhood Nutrition.

During these workshop’s one of the most valuable and insightful exercises we undertake together is “Making Decisions about Food”. This whole section focuses how the centre, and its staff, can assess and decide which foods are good choices, and thus recommended within their setting, and which are not so good choices and therefore discouraged, or disallowed, within the centre.

Of course no parent likes to be told what they can and cannot feed their children!

However, for very good reasons- many relating to the startling childhood obesity incidence within our society (60%)- Nutrition Australia, one of Australia’s peak Nutrition bodies, stipulates clear guidelines on how to decide if a particular food is an appropriate choice for a child for everyday eating, or not.

In order to comply with accreditation guidelines, childcare settings throughout Australia are encouraged to incorporate the following guidelines into their Nutrition Policy and enforce these with parents:

Foods NOT recommended within Long Day Care Centres:

1. High FAT foods

  • greater than 15% fat
  • often contain no other nutrients essential for growth
  • meat, full cream dairy products, avocado, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, amongst others are exceptions as they contain essential and useful nutrients for growth and development

To determine the fat percentage of an item, simply refer to the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) and check the “fat” content per 100g of the item.
5g fat per 100g product is 5% fat; 20g fat per 100g product is 20% fat, and so on

Therefore, in order to meet this criteria, an item must contain less than 15g fat per 100g (unless it is one of the aforementioned foods)

Check some of the items you regularly include in the kids (or even your own) lunch box- you will be surprised, I am sure, at what you discover

NB. When comparing the NIP between different brands and foods- be sure to always base comparisons on the “per 100g” values, not “per serve”

2. High SUGAR foods

  • Greater than 15% sugar
  • decrease appetite for healthier foods
  • contribute to tooth decay

There really are no exceptions in this category- a food should NOT contain more than 15% sugar- unless it is 100% WHOLE fruit (which is not labelled anyway and not may fruits contain more than this amount of sugar in the fresh whole state anyway) .

Fruit juices and other “fruit-based” products are not exempt here. They are not suitable everyday foods- as much as manufacturers may try to portray otherwise!

This is a very insightful activity to undertake.

Look at some common cereals you may have at home. How much sugar do they contain per 100g?

What about other regular snacks? Muesli bars? Biscuits? etc

Having these parameters as cut-off points for acceptable vs not acceptable daily foods is a useful and empowering way to make Lunch Box decisions much easier!

Read the Ingredients List!

Another very useful method to help you in your decisions about sensible food and snack choices, is to use the Ingredients List in conjunction with the NIP.
For example, if a food lists 30g sugar per 100g, what is the source of that sugar?

We know there are a few natural sources of sugar such as lactose from milk and fructose in fruit. These are acceptable when present naturally. However, how much of the sugar listed is added?
To determine this simply glance at the ingredients list to find out. An Ingredient’s List lists all ingredients of the product in order from greatest to least. So whatever is listed first is present in the greatest amount and whatever is listed last is present in the smallest amount.
Foods that are high in sugar will have words that mean sugar near the start of the list.

Be careful to note if there is more than one sugar or fat ingredient on the list.

Some other words that mean sugar to look our for are:
-glucose, rice/corn syrup, honey, maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose, juice concentrates, xylitol, raw/brown sugar, sorbitol, golden syrup, condensed milk, lactose, mannitol, glucose syrup, maltose, molasses, malt cane sugar

Some other words that mean fat to look out for are:
-lard, butter, butterfat, dripping, monoglycerides, vegetable oil, margarine, cocoa butter, diglycerides, coconut oil, cream, copha, palm oil, shortening, milk solids, tallow, suet, animal fat

This month I encourage you to start to looking at and assessingthe labels of the packaged foods you commonly eat and also use in the children’s, as well as your own, lunches.

I am sure you will be surprised at a few of the things you discover! My clients always are that’s for sure!

Next month we will discuss suitable snack ideas, so stay tuned!

Lastly- the cut off points above are for CHILDREN and of a general nature only.

For adults watching their weight, cut off points of 7% for fat, and 10% for sugar are most likely more appropriate, however, this differs for each individual.

Individual advice is always most strongly recommended.

YOU and YOUR family are completely UNIQUE!

Have fun! 🙂

As always, it’s a DELIGHT to hear your experiences, so please drop me a line 🙂



Trackback from your site.