School snacks: my list of the best packaged options available


If there is one topic sure to start a  Facebook frenzy, it is the mere mention of packaged snacks as a ‘healthy’ option to pack in school lunchboxes. Now before you bombard me with abuse and aggressive questioning along the lines of, ‘How as a dietitian can you recommend packaged snacks?’ I want everyone to keep one key thing in mind – the majority of parents out there buy packaged snack food to fill their children’s lunchboxes with it. Now you may not feel that this is ‘ideal’ parent behaviour. You may feel that it is child abuse putting anything with a wrapper in a child’s lunchbox. You may think that a dietitian should not even mention packaged snacks, and instead sprout the benefits of homemade seed balls and cakes based on organic flour and coconut oil but I am not that kind of dietitian. Rather, I know, based on the size of the kids snacks section in the supermarket that lots and lots of Aussie kids are eating packaged snacks on a daily basis and as such, see it as my job to share with you some of the better options.

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So, first of all, what makes a relatively good snack for kids? First of all, it needs to be calorie and as such portion controlled. We already know that Aussie kids are eating a lot more than they need and hence a snack coming in at 60 -100 calories is a pretty good choice. Next, it needs to have some positive nutritional properties – fibre, calcium, protein, wholegrains – the goodies are kids bodies need to grow and be at their best. Ideally the snacks will be as minimally processed as possible, for example popcorn is a much better option than rice crackers which are far more processed. And finally, the most nutritious snacks tend to have the shortest ingredient list. Yes in an ideal world the snacks would contain no sugar, or preservatives or gums or emulsifiers or salt but if we consider the big picture, within a lunchbox that also contains wholegrains, a protein rich snack, some fruit and a vegetable snack, an occasionally snack with a few grams of sugar is not going to be that big an issue in the big scheme of things. In saying that, if you are a parent who has a child who is happy to enjoy their lunchbox completely free of any packaged snacks, then I say good-on you. For everyone else, including me, here is my list of the best packaged options currently available at major supermarkets.

Sunbites Air Popped Popcorn

With <80 calories per serve, 2g of fibre and no added sugars, popcorn is a great lunchbox filler.

Carman’s YUMMOS

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.

Freedom foods Cocoa Crunch

This flavoured drink contains no added sugar and is a rich source of calcium and protein for just 100calories.

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

ARI Bars

In the health food section, a low sugar, gluten free bar option for <100calories.

Cobb’s Popcorn

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

Rowie’s Snacckie Bites

Low in sugar, gluten free and a great option nutritionally if the kids will eat them

Milo Starz

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.

Partner Foods Roasted Broadbeans and Choc Nuts

With 5g of protein per serve, these tasty morsels are a great alternative to potato chips with minimal ingredients and better still are nut free.

The author is not associated with any of these brands and this review remains an independent opinion.




  • Linda says:

    Thank you – as a parent who operates in the real (and sometimes less than ideal) world this is really useful.

  • monique cross says:

    Thanks for the list Susie.

    With 4 active boys, 12 years of schooling down and only another 10 years to go, I appreciate the reality of life and packing healthy lunch boxes. And yes that includes packaged treats.

  • Louise Trott says:

    Sugar, sugar and more sugar…
    Australia has serious issue with early onset diabetes, youth obesity and lack of nutrition. It wasn’t that long ago a school lunch was a healthy sandwich and a piece of fruit.
    Why do we have to fall for the global companies pushing their items full of sugar and minimal nutrition?
    Try cooking two trays of healthy muffins, freeze and use of a couple of weeks.

  • Louise says:

    This is really helpful – thank you! Nice to read some common sense and straight forward analysis.

  • Kerry says:

    Thank you so much for the list. I have 2 primary school aged children. I find it hard to compete with other kids lunch boxes. My girls notice what everyone else has so for me to know what is a healthier packaged snack is so helpful. They won’t feel so left out & I feel better knowing what to look for.

  • Sue says:

    Really appreciate this list. Thanks.

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