• Julie Landon

Popular Lunchbox Foods: what’s really in them?

Recently, I asked my Facebook community for their family’s top processed lunchbox foods. Popular foods included savoury snacks like Dorritos, Shapes, Plain Chips, Cheese Dips and Popcorn, and sweet biscuits like Tiny Teddies, Oreos and a variety of breakfast-style bars like Milo, Nutra grain or Choc Chip Oat Bars. Do these end up in your lunchboxes too?

Have you ever read the ingredient list on the back? Read on to discover my thoughts on the ingredients found in some of these products.

A cheesy flavoured corn chip

Ingredient List: Corn, Vegetable Oils, Cheese Powder (Milk), Salt, Buttermilk Powder (Milk), Wheat Flour, Whey Protein Concentrate (Milk), Tomato Powder, Flavour Enhancers (621, 631, 627), Onion Powder, Whey Powder (Milk), Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Sugar, Natural Flavour, Mineral Salt (339), Food Acids (Lactic Acid, Citric Acid), Spice (White Pepper), Colours (110, 150D).

  • 23 ingredients including vegetable oils, flavours, preservatives, colours, sugars and salt. Whilst I personally consider a list of 23 ingredients way too many my biggest concerns are the flavour enhancers (621, 631 & 627) and the Colours (150D) which are all ‘red’ items on the Chemical Maze app

  • I choose to buy an Organic Original Corn Chip which may not be perfect but with only 3 ingredients seem a better choice to me. I, also, found this recipe online which I’ll admit I haven’t tried yet but it may be worth a go.

A chocolate biscuit with creamy white filling

Ingredient List: Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Oil (contains Antioxidant (319)), Cocoa Powder, Fructose Syrup, Cornstarch, Raising Agents (500, 503), Salt, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Flavour.

  • 11 ingredients including vegetable oils, the additive 319 derived from petroleum (according to Chemical Maze) and 3g (or half the recommended daily intake) of sugar in 3 biscuits (the suggested serving size). I’m also hesitant about the undisclosed ‘flavour’ component.

  • It’s hard to find a packaged biscuit without similar ingredients. I’ll be honest, this is something I rarely buy as it’s so easy to whip up and bake a homemade cookie where the ingredients are real foods and I can control the amount of sugar I actually use. One of my favourites is a Chocolate Oat Cookie. Recipe can be found in my new Lunchbox to Learn Ebook coming soon – register your interest here .


Ingredient List (original): Popcorn, Canola Oil, Salt

Ingredient List (butter flavour): Popcorn, Canola Oil, Maltodextrin, Salt, Natural Flavours, Natur Colours (Curcumin)

  • ·3 (or 6 ingredients) including canola oil, salt and sugar (the maltodextrin) and natural flavours/colours in the butter flavour. So not as long an ingredient list as you might expect but where is the butter? Unbelievable really that the butter popcorn doesn’t contain any butter, in fact the standard buttered popcorn you find in the movies is probably way worse than this with a chemical cocktail creating the infamous butter taste. I’m not keen on the use of canola oil (this is too long to explain here but essentially most vegetable oils, including canola oil, are highly processed in order to extract the oil from the plant). I also steer away from any added flavours, natural or not. See this article from FedUp to understand more

  • I choose to buy popcorn kernels and air pop my own on the stovetop (a quick google will show you how). It’s easy and you can control the sugar, salt, flavours you add. We often have it plain but my family’s favourite at the moment is a tiny bit of sugar mixed with cinnamon sprinkled on it.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Ingredient List: Brand Rolled Oats (34%), Glucose ( Wheat ), Whole Grain Wheat (11%)], Compound Chocolate Chips (9%) [Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Milk Solids, Cocoa, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifiers (492, Soy Lecithin), Salt], Breakfast Cereal (Whole Grain Wheat (5%), Wholemeal Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Sugar, Vitamin E), Chicory Root Fibre, Sunflower Oil ( Soy ), Sugar, Humectant (Glycerine), Modified Wheat Starch (1412), Invert Sugar, Coconut ( Sulphites ), Honey, Milk Powder, Emulsifier ( Soy Lecithin), Flavour, Salt, Preservative (223) ( Sulphites )

  • 29 ingredients.

  • Just make your own! A homemade version will contain approximately 8-12 ingredients especially if you use cacao nibs or chopped up good quality dark chocolate in place of the chocolate chips. Again, there’s plenty to find on google but watch out for the sugar content. Here’s the link to one I’ve made before which is delicious.

Packaged foods need to be chosen carefully. Make sure you read the ingredient list before popping the usual into your shopping trolley. Look out for the number of ingredients, the types of ingredients, the sugar content, the additives, colours, flavours etc. There may even be a similar product further along the shelf that is a slightly better option. However, the best option where you have total control of the ingredients is to make your own where possible.

It should be noted that this review is based on my personal opinions using my professional nutritional knowledge. My intention is to equip you to make the best choices for you and your family.

If you are still confused and would love to have a guided supermarket visit, please contact me. This is a great way to get practical advice on the best choices for your family and the shopping done at the same time!

More information here or email me at julie@julielandonnutrition.com

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