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Stop putting sugar in your kids lunch box

Today I am talking about something considered controversial, but I am speaking from my personal experience with one of my four kids. I know it’s not easy, but you have to stop putting sugar in your child’s lunch box!

Did you know that in South Africa 2 out of 10 children are obese or overweight? Think about that for a minute, out of every 10 children you see 2 of them are (or will be) obese. Not chubby or with a few little rolls, but obese. These are alarming stats, but all it takes is a visit to a school playground or a peek in a lunch box to see just how bad the problem is.

While there are many factors leading to this, one of the contributing factors is that lunch boxes that are sent to school with young children, combined with the amount of money sent with them for tuck shop.

Many adults do not and would not eat what they pack their children in their lunch box but the argument is “they won’t anything else”. I am a parent, I have had those exact discussions, I have packed those exact lunch boxes and I had an obese toddler. Packing a lunch box filled with processed foods and sugar does make life easier today, it gives you peace of mind knowing your child is at least not going hungry but there are some long term effects of this, obesity being one of them.

So what do you do? Your child won’t eat carrot sticks, apples or granola bars which is fair comment and it is a problem but those are not the only options you have. There will be something your child will eat that is healthy.

  • Biltong is a great snack that most kids generally enjoy. It is high in protein so will keep them fill and is easy to pack.
  • Nuts are also a healthy option or a trail mix. There are a lot of different mixes out there that combine dried fruit, nuts, coconut flakes etc. or you could make your own.
  • Pasta salads are great ideas; you can add in chicken or tuna with some gherkins or peppers.
  • Popcorn or mini rice cakes are a great alternative to chips. If you make it at home it is even better.

Sugar free products are very popular at the moment, so it is possible to find nice snacks that you can pop into lunch boxes that are sugar free. There will be a period where your child will probably complain and groan but if that is their only option they will adapt and very often it is the idea of the food product, not the actual product that they are averse to, so if you don’t mention its sugar/fat free they may not even realise.

Tuckshop should not be the norm, it is not something a child should get to do daily. A six-year-old cannot stand in front of a room filled with sweets and decide on the toasted sandwich, they will buy R20 worth of milk bottles or ice lollies.

There are days where life falls apart a bit and the only option is sending them off with some money and hoping for the best, that really is ok. If you do send them with money, make it age appropriate, an 8 year old does not need R100, in fact a 16 year old doesn’t need to be sent off with R100 to the tuck shop. The idea is that it is a treat day where they can buy something small as a treat.

I know how challenging this is. I have packed many lunch boxes that have been returned, uneaten. I have had many fights over why the chips are suddenly being replaced with nuts or why they can’t take R50 to school. Watching my son struggle when he was overweight was harder, much harder.



  1. 21 February, 2022 / 2:41 am

    Me and my kids love rice cakes and popcorn! They are both so tasty and curb the sugar craving a lot. There are some great alternatives to sugary snacks listed here. Thank you, for the recommendations.

  2. 22 February, 2022 / 9:04 pm

    It’s sad to read that most adults wouldn’t eat some of what they put in their kids lunchbox. I’m very conscious about what my kids eat.

  3. Blair Villanueva
    23 February, 2022 / 8:53 am

    Our kids always have fruits for the school snacks, but we also add a couple of sweets/sugary pieces so that they won’t be tempted to buy loads of sweets at school, and hide them from us.
    Somehow it works for us!

  4. Joyce K.
    23 February, 2022 / 9:14 am

    Sometimes it gets difficult to try and not pack sugar for children, but this provided so many options and information.

  5. Luna S
    23 February, 2022 / 4:03 pm

    I am thankful my kids like fruits and veggies! I get to pack them fresh fruit/veggies, they also like granola bars, rice cakes, etc and I will make them dishes like egg salad, bbq chicken, and other items to take to school that are on the healthier side. We hardly ever do pre-made/packaged lunch stuff.

  6. Renee
    23 February, 2022 / 4:55 pm

    Totally agree!!! There are so many things marketed as “healthy snacks” for kids that at loaded with sugar too!

  7. 24 February, 2022 / 9:41 am

    Interesting! And I agree with you, we need to make them eat healthily. Sharing this with my friend because she has a kid going to school. Thank you for sharing!

  8. 24 February, 2022 / 12:49 pm

    I love making school lunch for the kids. And I always avoid sugar. More on fruits and vegetables.

  9. 24 February, 2022 / 3:17 pm

    Oh well, we have to think wisely on what to put in a kids lunch box. My daughter when she was younger has a good school providing healthy meals for them since its included with tuition. So far she’s goodie on this part.
    Chrissy recently posted…Comment on 7 Huge Reasons to Avoid Processed Food by AlitaMy Profile

  10. 25 February, 2022 / 1:26 am

    I think if kids developed a habit of eating healthy at a young age, they will for sure carry it until adulthood! Totally support this effort!

  11. Jasmine Martin
    25 February, 2022 / 9:03 am

    This is so important. It’s better for kids to have sweet options that are natural like fruits or 100% juices for sure.

  12. 25 February, 2022 / 5:28 pm

    My kids used to sneak their own Money to school to buy from the vending machines. I tried for years to have them removed but they didn’t listen. Kids must start early learning about good nutrition and those habits start with healthy parents.

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