Supermarkets urged to stop promoting unhealthy, processed food as lunchbox staples


LiveLighter is calling on supermarkets to stop promoting unhealthy, packaged food and drinks as ideal for lunchboxes at a time when 27 percent of Australian children are overweight or obese.

As school goes back across Australia, LiveLighter surveyed ‘back to school’ specials in Coles, Woolworths and Aldi catalogues and found that the majority of items were packaged and lacking in nutritional value.

LiveLighter Campaign Manager and Dietitian Alison McAleese said despite what food brands and supermarkets suggest, items like snack bars, fruit drinks and flavoured crackers should not be staples in a child’s diet. Processed foods are often less filling and always nutritionally inferior to food in its unprocessed form.

“Supermarkets are promoting a wide range of unhealthy so-called ‘lunchbox’ foods, like muesli bars that are around 30 per cent sugar and kid-sized fruit drinks that contain more sugar than a child needs in a day. These foods are cheap, convenient and often marketed as healthy, so it’s easy to see how busy parents are tempted to buy them,” Ms McAleese said.

“An ideal healthy lunchbox would include a filling lunch, such as a wholegrain sandwich with protein, like chicken or eggs. The snacks would be fruit, chopped vegetables, and could also include yoghurt with berries or cheese. And for a drink, water is the best drink choice. Fruit drinks have no place in a child’s lunchbox.”

LiveLighter is urging parents to resist falling for these packaged unhealthy products and giving them healthy alternatives as part of a new LiveLighter program specifically for parents, teachers and kids.

Launched today, LiveLighter for Families is a ‘rescue package’ of online resources and tips created to help parents develop healthy family habits, and save money and time in the process.

Heart Foundation Victoria CEO Kellie-Ann Jolly said school lunches are a fantastic opportunity to ensure children get all the energy and nutrients they need.

“Unfortunately almost 40 percent of what the average Australian child eats is energy dense and nutrient poor 1,” Ms Jolly said.

“The good news is that around a third of children's daily food intake occurs at school, so providing them with a nutritious lunchbox is an easy way to ensure they get all the energy and nutrients they need and help them develop healthy eating habits for life.

“The LiveLighter for Families resources have some simple tips to help parents create a lunchbox that won’t break your wallet and is good for your child’s health.

“Simple things like giving children home-made popcorn instead of chips, and water instead of fruit drink can turn a high-kilojoule lunchbox into a nutritious, kids’ lunch.”

Melbourne mum-of-three Charis Brown says packing lunches that are healthy, tasty, quick and cheap is straight forward with a little forward planning.

“When you’ve got three mouths to feed, making snacks instead of buying them is much cheaper, but my children’s health is the most important thing to me,” Mrs Brown said.

“As a cardiac nurse, every day I see what can happen if you don’t make healthy lifestyle choices. I want my children to live long and well lives. I have an opportunity as their mum to instil healthy habits in them from a young age.”

How to pack a healthy lunchbox for just $2.50


  • Egg and lettuce sandwich on multigrain bread
  • 1 apple
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • LiveLighter Popcorn
  • Plain yoghurt with frozen berries
  • Water bottle

How to turn an unhealthy lunchbox into one that is filling and nutritious

Unhealthy lunchbox item Healthier swap
Nutella sandwich on white bread Egg sandwich on grain bread – or use LiveLighter’s sandwich builder for inspiration
Fruit flavoured yoghurt Natural yoghurt with fruit
Muesli bar LiveLighter muesli bar or muffins which you can freeze
Chips Home-made popcorn or veggie sticks and hummus or LiveLighter dip
Cake or store-bought muffins LiveLighter muffin, Blueberry and banana bread or Currant and carrot loaf which you can freeze
Lollies Grapes, strawberries or cherry tomatoes
Fruit drink Water
Shapes/savoury biscuits Cheese or hummous and wholegrain crackers or rice cakes 

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation. LiveLighter encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. For more healthy tips, recipes, tools and resources, visit or follow LiveLighter on Facebook.

For media and interview enquiries:

Shannon Crane on 0432 157 270

Fleur Jacobs on 0423 827 697  

1 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12