Which? warns parents over school lunchbox fillersPre-packaged snacks can be high in fat and salt

01 September 2011

School lunchbox

Over 80% of parents who gave their child a packed lunch said they include pre-packaged snacks.

Which? is concerned that the lack of clear nutritional labelling on lunchbox snacks is leading to parents giving children lunches that are high in fat, sugar or salt.

The majority of students take packed lunches to school, and our survey of 1,000 parents showed 81% of them include pre-packed snacks in their children's lunch.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: 'These products might seem like handy fillers for your child's lunchbox, but they can be bad for their health and your wallet. 

He recommended: 'You're better off making your own children's lunches or giving them school dinners which are much more nutritionally balanced.'

Unhealthy lunchbox snacks

We looked at the nutritional information on some traditional lunchtime snacks and found some worrying results:

  • A Dairylea Lunchables 'Ham'n'Cheese' Crackers contains 1.8g of salt, over half of a four to six-year-old's daily intake.
  • Almost 15% of a Petits Filous Frubes is sugar.
  • Robinson's Fruit Shoot Juice (blackcurrant and apple) says that it has no artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, but each drink contains over four teaspoons of sugar.
  • The Fruit Factory Fruit Strings are almost 50% sugar.

Healthy school lunches

The NHS recommends that a packed lunch includes around one third starchy foods (such as rice, bread or pasta), some protein (such as meat, fish or beans) a dairy item, one portion of vegetables and a portion of fruit. 

Alternatively, school dinners are designed to be nutritionally balanced, and shouldn't break the bank. Which? found that adding just two of the snack items (a Dairylea Lunchables pack and a Robinsons Fruit Shoot Juice drink) to a lunchbox could add up to £1.86, whereas the average primary school meal costs £1.91.

Traffic light labelling

Which? has long been calling for traffic light labelling on , which would give clear and transparent information to parents who were looking to choose a healthy snack.

Most parents do not have the time to spend scrutinising the back of packets to work out whether the claims made on packaging are true. A simple traffic light system would allow them to see at a glance which of these snacks would be suitable for a healthy lunchbox.

Our research shows that around 33% of parents don't check nutritional labelling on food packaging, and 70% think it's important that foods advertised to children have traffic light nutritional information on them. 

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