If there is one topic sure to cause heated debate it is kids processed snack foods and their inclusion in school lunch boxes. While some parents talk about processed snacks as pure evil to be avoided at all costs, the fact is that with an ever expanding snack food section in the supermarket, plenty of parents are still purchasing processed snacks. This in turn begs the question, should we then talk about what are the better options, or live in denial and pretend none of us buy these snacks, ever?
Australian research data suggests that Aussie kids eat on average 3 packaged snacks in their lunchbox per – this is a whole lot of muesli bars, packets of things and carbohydrate rich snacks filling the lunchboxes of our kids. There is no doubt that the average lunchbox filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and snack food is packed full of processed carbs and lacking in veges, filling protein and wholegrains.
Over the past 5 years, the quality of popular snacks and bars has improved, a result of food companies reformulating popular products in order to achieve more stars as part of the Star Rating System. What has resulted is smaller bars and packets of things which still may not be great nutritionally compared to fresh, unprocessed foods but snacks that have so few calories and sugars that they are not significant as part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.
My position on packaged snacks is that in general the fewer you add to the lunchbox, the better and I generally recommend 1 at most. Most importantly, I look for options that contain fewer than 100cal per serve, <20g total carbs, <10g sugars and ideally 3-5g of protein per serve. Once you look at these targets you tend to eliminate much of the crap. And of course, if you are keen to stick to homemade alternatives, checkout these recipes for my Choc Peppermint Bliss Balls here and my Banana Bread here.
Or if you are happy to include processed snacks, some of the better packaged snacks include:
My favourite kids snack at the moment – with 3g of protein, 1g of fibre, no sugar for just 70cal this product is a great balance of a naturally flavoured packaged snack food that kids will actually enjoy eating.
Sunbites Air Popped Popcorn
With <80 calories per serve, 2g of fibre and no added sugars, popcorn is a great lunchbox filler.
Made with wholegrains and containing just 80 calories per serve.
Milo Energy Snack Bars
With <5g of added sugars, just 80calories and almost 2g of fibre, this popular brand combines some nutrition with a child friendly product.
Munchables Light Cheese and Crackers
Combines protein and calcium in a portion controlled pack.
Uncle Toby’s Crunchy Choc Chip (Not CHEWEY)
With <100calories per serve and just 4g of sugar, this popular bar option is not as bad nutritionally as you may think
In the health food section, a low sugar, gluten free bar option for <100calories.
Another popcorn option.
Kez’s Gluten Free Cereal Bites
Low in sugar, gluten free and a great option nutritionally if the kids will eat them
Another 80 calorie snack choice with a relatively low amount of sugar compared to traditional biscuit style snacks for kids.
Uncle Toby’s Fruity Bites
Individual sized portions of breakfast cereal that combines wholegrains and fibre in <80calories and 5g of sugars.
With just 4g of sugars per pack and fewer than 80 calories these gluten free snacks are child friendly, nut free and taste great.
If you are struggling with what your kids are eating (or not eating), or would like to learn more on how to deal with fussy eaters, meal planning for busy families or the right nutritional mix for your child’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, my eBook ‘Your kids, their food’ could be just for you. Available now here for just $14.95.