The sugary secrets lurking in your children’s lunchboxes


  • Typical lunchbox items can add up to 47g of sugar – double a child’s daily intake
  • Even ‘healthy’ meals of fruit, nuts, a sandwich and smoothie can have too much
  • Many also contain more than half the salt a child should eat in a day in one go 

Imogen Blake For Mailonline

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A ham sandwich, a few healthy snacks and a small treat – this typical children’s lunchbox may sound innocent enough but meals like this one can contain double the sugar a child should eat in a day. 

Millions of British children are tucking into lunchboxes that contain at least 47g of sugar – around double the recommended daily intake for kids, new research has revealed.

These images show lunchboxes filled with typical items eaten by 52 per cent of children up and down the country, according to the study.

This typical lunchbox contains a sliced ham sandwich on multiseed bread, a Petits Filous yoghurt pot, a Go Ahead snack bar, a serving of dry roasted peanuts and a strawberry milkshake as a treat. Together it contains 49.7g of sugar, 2.09g of salt and 26.4g of fat

From miniature yoghurt pots and packets of nuts to chicken sandwiches and a fruit smoothie, the ingredients appear to give children a balanced healthy diet, as well as a small treat to satisfy their sweet tooth.

But shockingly, even these apparently healthy and balanced lunchtime meals can contain a staggering amount of sugar.

Four of these lunchboxes contain at least 47g of sugar – more than double the 19g maximum recommended daily intake for four to six-year-olds and almost twice the 24g seven to 10-year-olds should be having. 

The worst contained a whopping 63g of sugar. 

What’s really in your children’s lunchbox revealed

This typical lunchbox contains a brown pitta with sliced ham; a 60g chocolate mousse; a natural fruit and nut bar; a packet of prawn cocktail crisps and a bottle of water. Together, the items contain 26.2g of sugar, 1.51g of salt and 16.1g of fat

This typical lunchbox contains a sliced chicken on 50/50 bread; a 60g chocolate mousse; a natural fruit and nut bar; a pack of Hula-Hoops and a can of Diet Coke. Surprisingly this is the least sugary lunchbox and contains 26.1g sugars, 1.89g salt, and 14.8g fat 

This typical lunchbox contains: a sliced ham sandwich on white bread; a full fat Babybel cheese; 1 red apple; a Frubes yoghurt; and a Yazoo milkshake. All together it contains 47.1g of sugar, 1.89g of salt, and 11.9g of fat

This typical lunchbox contains: a chicken spread sandwich on 50/50 bread; a Coco Pops snack bar; 100g black grapes; a Petits Filous yoghurt; and fresh apple juice. Together it contains 54.8g of sugar, 1.35g of salt and 13.6g of fat

This typical lunchbox contains a white pitta with sliced chicken; a strawberry fruit corner; a banana; a packet of Hula Hoops; and an Innocent kids smoothie. This was the unhealthiest lunchbox, containing 63.8g of sugar, 1.49 of salt and 13.1g of fat

Four of them also contain between 1.51g and 2.09g of salt – more than half of the maximum 3g a four to six-year-old should be eating.

The study of 2,000 parents found that 39 per cent of parents have no idea how much salt and sugar their children should be having in a single day, so admit they struggle to keep to the limit.

A spokesman for MyProtein, the creators of healthy snack range Little Beasts, which commissioned the research, said: ‘Even though parents often have their children’s best interests at heart, many kids are eating much more salt and sugar than they should be.

‘And many of the so-called ‘lower fat’ or ‘non-sugar’ snacks make up the shortfall in other ways, with a low-fat content usually replaced by a higher amount of sugar, and sugar-free items often containing more fat.

‘Our study found that there is a real danger of British children growing up less healthy than they should be, due to the packed lunches they take to school.’

The study found that 46 per cent of parents make packed lunches so they can keep a closer eye on what their kids are eating – with another four in 10 saying they prefer it because it’s cheaper. 

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