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  • Writer's pictureKRCC

Lunchbox Wars

Here’s my confession. I’m a kindergarten teacher and a Mum. I know about lunch box nutrition and I am sick to death of hearing about healthy lunchboxes and what I should be packing.

While I’ve known about nutrition for a long time, I’ve only been a teacher for three years. Let me tell you, I really had NO IDEA the immediate effect a high-processed lunch box has on a bunch of preschoolers.

So that got the team at KRCC talking. Already during term one, we’ve seen some highly processed lunchboxes and the effects of this low nutrition are evident about three minutes after consmption.

In this bulletin, we are going to declare war on the highly processed lunchbox. But I promise you we will do this in a way that is informative, interesting and non-threatening.

So read on and know this was written by me – a self-confessed hater of lunch box nutrition bang-on!

Children at KRCC deliver fresh vegetables from our garden to cook Jodi for inclusion in the weekly menu.

The low-down on sugar

Once upon a time ‘fat’ and ‘salt’ were the enemy of good nutrition. As it turns out, sugar is the number one culprit behind many of our health challenges. Sugar is the queen of camouflage. Manufacturers of processed foods hide it in EVERYTHING to make their products edible and last longer on the supermarket shelf.

Australians in general eat almost 15 teaspoons of ‘free’(added) sugar every day!
Teenagers (9-18 yrs) eat more sugar than other age groups (Source: ABS)

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting Free (added) sugar to just 6 teaspoons per day.


  • Free sugar is the sugar added to food during the manufacturing or cooking process. This includes honey and syrups, fruit juice and concentrates.

  • Free sugar takes many forms; fructose, corn syrup, glucose etc.

  • Fresh fruit is not considered to be free sugar due to the natural fibre and nutrition it offers.

Hidden (free) sugar and its effects

Whole foods – long lasting energy Whole foods contain fibre – a vital part in slowing down sugar absorption and moderating insulin. Energy is released in a controlled and long-lasting manner. No sugar rush.

Processed foods – the dreaded sugar rush Processed foods generally have low nutrition and high calorie value. They also generally contain less fibre and added refined sugar. Energy is released in one huge hit, and hunger returns quickly.

If your Granny wouldn’t recognise it, don’t eat it.

That’s pretty good advice. Since the end of WWII, the Western diet has contained more and more highly processed food. The trouble is, processed food has a lot of calories and very low nutrition.

Manufacturers take all the good stuff out of food (fibre, iron and B-vitamins) for two reasons;

1. to give the end product a softer texture and

2. to extend the shelf-life of the product

They then pack it full of fat, salt and/or sugar to make it edible.

“Heavily processed food is going to last longer on the supermarket shelf because pests like mould are less attracted to foods that are low in nutrients.”

If the highly processed foods are so low in nutrients that the pests don’t even want to eat it, how healthy can it be for us?

- Maya Adam, M.D. Lecturer, Standford School of Medicine Ref:

The conundrum of a delicious looking lunchbox

Here’s an example of a wondrous and delicious looking lunchbox. Big ticks to this parent for packing all the colours of the naturally occurring rainbow into this nude-food nutrient-packed box of goodness. If your child eats a lunchbox like this, fantastic!

Reality check:my son won’t go near that. No way. I’ve tried. And tried! It comes home full. The chickens really enjoy his left over lunch and my financial pocket seems emptier every day.

So I just make it simple. Real food, no pre-packaging (occasional muesli bar) and a great mix of fibre and protein to slow the absorption of any added sugar lurking about.

Lunchbox Balance Challenge:

We challenge you to think about balance. Pack more real foodsthan processed food in lunchboxes.

Before you close the lid, take one processed thing out and swap it for something real.

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