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Deliberating over what to put in the kid’s lunchboxes is the eternal dilemma for parents. You want to give them something that is nourishing, boosts their brain power and energy levels for school work and play, but often the healthy choices seem to be the things they won’t eat. Salad filled sandwiches can be soggy by lunchtime, your lovingly made wholegrain muffins may be dry and un-appetising when not warm, fresh from the oven and you may feel utterly confused about the snack options on the supermarket shelf.

The first piece of advice is to not get overly complicated. You do not need to give endless combinations and flavour sensations. In fact, most kids are happy with familiar foods and are quite happy to have a rotation of a few different options.

Secondly, don’t put too much in the lunchbox. If there are too many items to choose from, it is inevitable the easy-to-eat items will go first and they won’t have the time or inclination to eat the filled roll or specially prepared wrap. Think about what your child would eat at home during school hours and match the lunchbox accordingly.

To help you with what to put in the lunchbox here are a few easy swaps:

  • Ditch the white bread for a lovely wholegrain variety. The best options are breads with lots of grainy bits and seeds, but if they won’t eat these start with a smooth wholegrain option. Rolls and wholegrain wraps are terrific alternatives to mix things up across the week.
  • Swap the processed meat fillings such as ‘soccerball’ ham for freshly cooked meats or canned fish. Leftovers from the night before are ideal or poach a couple of chicken breasts at the start of the week, slice them and keep them in a container in the fridge to use through the week.
  • Swap the chips and packaged snacks for Messy Monkeys whole grain Bites. These are made with a mixture of wholegrain flours including the ancient grain quinoa and the lesser known grain sorghum. This has been shown in a recent study to improve satiety and the feeling of fullness between meals. This may help kids to feel satisfied and avoid overeating, particularly on the wrong foods. A packet of these Whole Grain Bites delivers 2g of fibre, putting them well on their way to meeting their daily fibre needs.
  • Swap the processed fruit snacks for real, whole fruit. Even if they are made from 100% fruit, this often means extra concentrated fruit juice is added for sweetness, many of the nutrients and antioxidants are lost in the processing and the end result is not much better than a sticky lolly, particularly when it comes to dental health. Whole fruit offers a complete nutrition package of fibre, naturally present sugars for energy and a whole bunch of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Cutting the fruit up is often the best means of ensuring they eat it – or add the whole fruit to a reusable tub of unsweetened Greek yoghurt.
  • Swap the fruit juice for water. Water is all kids need for hydration and they should not have sugary drinks, including fruit juice.


If you are still struggling to get your child to eat their lunch, Dr Joanna has some more advice for when your child’s lunch comes home uneaten.


We were lucky enough to be given a few packets of Messy Monkeys to review.

What we thought
Messy Monkeys are a handy snack food that are super yummy and a great alternative to rice crackers and unhealthy chips.

  • Yummy natural-tasting flavours (cheese, pizza flavours) and generous serving sizes.
  • A great ‘lunchbox swap’ with the burger flavour – they taste just like Burger Rings for a real treat!
  • The packets were hard to open. As a teacher, I know the pain of opening packets for fifty prep students at a time. Prepare to pull ugly faces.
  • I loved them, my 13 yo daughter loved them and my toddler loved them.
  • My toddler loved the Monkey picture and would ask for ‘Monkey chippees’.
  • I love that the kids felt like they were having a treat, and I could give them one without feeling really, really, ridiculously guilty.

Overall I thought they were a great option for a lunchbox or to have in your nappy bag or handbag for a quick, guilt-free snack.

All of the details
Messy Monkeys is a new brand delivering healthy and delicious products to address the much-needed gap in the market for kids’ nutritional snacks.

Containing only natural ingredients, these tasty Whole Grain Bites have no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. You won’t find any palm oil, MSG or other nasties in these either. Yay! Messy Monkeys is the perfect addition for any lunchbox, with a Health Star Rating of 4, so you can be assured your little one is getting all the good stuff.

Messy Monkeys, which is made with the hidden goodness of sorghum and quinoa, offers 48 percent more fibre, 74 percent more protein, 85 percent less sugar and 45 percent less sodium than the leading competitor product.

These Whole Grain Bites are a simple and healthy choice for a nutritionally balanced lunchbox, but importantly are also packed full of flavour so your kids will love them too.