Experts say there's something seriously wrong with this lunchbox, but can you spot what it is?

AT FIRST glance it looks like a typical school lunch box, complete with a sandwich, snacks and drink.

But experts at Cancer Council NSW say that hidden somewhere in this photo is an “uncomfortable truth.”

While this lunch box containing a ham sandwich, a fruit roll-up, a yoghurt, crisps and a fruit drink may not ring any immediate alarm bells, it actually contains twice the sugar and half the fibre of a lunch box that has a cheese and tomato sandwich, fruit, veggie sticks and yoghurt.

As well as that the unhealthy lunch box is twice the cost of the healthier lunch box and it’s all down to the pre-packaged items.

Cancer Council NSW’s senior nutrition program officer Nina Tan said many parents bought pre-packaged school snacks because it saved them time or because of pressure from their children.

“When it comes to pre-packaged foods, companies are plastering them with nutrition-related marketing claims like ‘source of calcium’ or ‘no artificial…’, and adding colours, cartoon characters and fonts designed to draw in both parents and kids,” she said.

“Bright colours, cartoon animals and fun shapes are used to attract children, and text like ‘no need to chill’ and ‘the perfect lunch box biscuits’ are used to appeal to parents’ desire to make easy and quick lunch box choices for their kids, but these snacks can be packed with sugar, salt and kilojoules and often don’t provide children with the nutrients they need.”

Of 140 popular lunch box packaged snacks assessed by Cancer Council NSW, it found nearly 80 per cent could be classified as unhealthy.

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“Yet, the majority of products had marketing claims on the front-of-pack, such as ‘no artificial colours or additives’, ‘no preservatives’, and ‘made with real ingredients’,” Ms Tan said.

Ms Tan said Cancer Council NSW was “particularly concerned” by the results given the role lunch box snacks played in a children’s diet.

“Forty-four per cent of energy that Australian children consume at school comes from discretionary foods, such as sweet and savoury biscuits and cereal bars,” she said.

To help parents make informed choices when it came to their children’s food, Cancer Council NSW has launched new website, which features snack ideas, recipes, tips on how to read food labels as well as an interactive lunch box builder for children.

This story was originally published on and has been republished here with permission.

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