The Lunchbox Debate - A Paediatrician Weighs In

You may remember the time when local social media sites lit up with a flurry of activity when a mom posted about having sent her child to school with a non-alcoholic cider when she had supposedly run out of juice to include in the lunchbox for the day.

While it has since been found that the post was fake, the incident sparked some often hilarious but definitely divided social media comments from parents, showing just how different parents’ views are when it comes to drink and snack choices for their little ones.  

The ‘lunchbox’ incident has highlighted the need to discuss what being healthy means, and how parents can help their children eat and stay healthy.  

Children learn by watching their parents’ behaviour. If families regularly eat unhealthy food, this may negatively impact the health of the children over the long term. 

When it comes to fruit juices in a lunch box, water is always preferred, and sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum.   

This is because fruit juice contains fructose, which is a type of sugar. In excessive quantities, fructose can result in loose stools as well as tummy cramping.   

Fruit juice should also be limited due to the effect on the teeth in young children. Milk teeth enamel is particularly easily affected, and it is recommended to always dilute juice with water at least 50/50 to reduce this effect.

Fruit juices also have quite intense sweet tastes generally, and children love them for this reason. Diluting the juice makes this taste less intense and is beneficial in developing their preferences and palates. Diluting fruit juice also helps to reduce the loose stools associated with large amounts of concentrated juice in the diet. As a rough guide, children should not get more than 250 ml of juice per day.       

Lunchboxes are the cornerstone of healthy food habits from a young age.  In order to provide enough energy to concentrate and participate properly at school, they should contain snacks that are wholesome. Dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt, and vegetable sticks like carrots and cucumber are great. Two slices of bread are usually enough. Try to limit the amount of high fat content in the bread. It is best to keep the cheese and polonies to a minimum. 

Eating well starts early on in life, and focusing on nutritious food and drinks for the little ones can have a ripple effect throughout the whole family.  



Dr Iqbal Karbanee is a paediatrician and CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, a trusted telephonic medical advice service for the first 1 000 days of a child’s life, starting from conception to birth and beyond. 

“Wellness Warehouse strives to help you live life well but because we are retailers and not medical practitioners we cannot offer medical advice. Please always consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements, complementary medicines or have any health concerns and ensure that you always read labels, warnings and directions carefully, prior to consumption.”