Maintaining those healthy swaps.

Nicole Toia,

Homemade muesli slice with grapes and carrot

Parents tell us it is hard to keep the ham, muesli bars and treats (such as lollies and chocolate) out of the lunchbox.

To help we have put together some suggested substitutes you can pack in the lunchbox instead.

Ham / processed meats

We know ham is a common lunchbox staple, but did you know this sandwich filler is a processed meat, and regular consumption of processed meat has been linked with an increased risk of bowel cancer? This means ham is best eaten in small amounts and not every day. Here is what you can pack instead:

Leftover meats: extra roast beef, shredded chicken or sliced pork all make great swaps for ham in the lunch box. You can even use a supermarket roast chook - just remove the skin and away you go.

Cheese: for a like-for-like swap in terms of ease, sliced cheddar cheese is a great option.  Choosing a big block and slicing it yourself provides the best value and is better for the environment. But we get it! Time might be a factor, so if pre-sliced cheese is preferred, be sure to choose the plain cheddar and not the highly processed varieties. Other cheeses such as feta, cottage or ricotta cheese also make great fillings.

Eggs:  these power packs can boost your sandwich in so many ways. If sandwiches aren’t your thing, you can boil and eat them whole, scramble and add them to a wrap, or use them to make mini quiches or fritters.

Tinned tuna: a pantry must have and lunchbox staple! Tinned tuna is great to keep in the cupboard for when fresh food is running low. Add a little natural yoghurt for a creamy tuna filling.

Hummus or tinned beans/ legumes: these make a tasty and filling source of plant protein, and are a great addition to sandwiches, wraps or salads.

Roast chicken Sliced cheddar cheese Boiled eggTinned tuna

Muesli bars

Muesli bars are a common lunchbox item. Misleading food labels trick people into thinking muesli bars are healthy, but the reality is very different. They are often packed full of cheap and processed ingredients and tend to be high in added sugar and fats. Swap them out for:

Homemade muesli bars: making your own you can control how much sugar and fat you put in the mix, and you can also change up the flavours to suit your child’s preferences.

Popcorn: air pop some plain corn kernels using a handy popcorn maker, or in a paper bag in the microwave and school snacks for the week will be sorted in minutes. Add a pinch of cinnamon or some savoury spices for something different.

Pikelets: these timeless favourites can be made plain, or have a go at adding some family favourite fruit or veg to the mix. Pikelets are also a great option to cook in bulk and freeze - ready to grab on those busy school mornings.

A school friendly trail mix: get creative and make your own trail mix. Some yummy additions include dried cereal, broken up grainy crackers, dried fruit, cocoa nibs, soy crisps, sunflower seeds or pepitas, and popcorn.

Homemade muesli bar  Air popped popcorn Pikelets 

Treats (lollies and chocolates)

Whilst they are ok sometimes, lollies and chocolates are best left out of the lunchbox as much as possible. If packed regularly, kids may start to see treats such as these as everyday food rather than sometimes food. Try packing these instead:

Homemade healthy snack balls: have a go and blitz some oats, frozen fruits and a hint of honey together for a tasty, sweet snack.

Honey roasted chickpeas (try our recipe):  the honey hits the sweet spot, and the chickpeas are full of protein which will help your kids stay full for longer.

Sweet bite-sized fruits:  fruits such as berries or grapes can help satisfy any sugar craving.

Crunch&Sip lunchbox notes:  sometimes we hear parents say they include a sweet treat in the lunchbox as comfort, particularly if they know their child is having a hard time at school or struggling with some separation anxiety. There are non-food ways parents can provide this “warm hug from a distance”. Try one of our fun lunchbox notes, tuck in a handwritten joke or draw a silly face on a banana or mandarin.  

Honey roasted chickpeas Lunchbox notesA bunch of green grapes