add free sch lunch substitutes 1It’s back to school time again here, which means school lunch boxes are back on the agenda.  Whilst it’s easy to go for the quick prepackaged options, the processed foods so often used for school lunches are full of additives, including colouring, flavouring and preservatives.  These additives can cause all sorts of behavioural and physical symptoms, none of which are pleasant!  For your kids health and well being (and your sanity!), going additive free will bring calm and balance to your household and changing their school lunches is a great way to start the additive free journey.  To help you make this change, I’m going to cover 8 common school lunch foods and how you can easily swap them for healthy options.  There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll split this into two blogs.  Here’s the first four additive free school lunch substitutes…

1. Popcorn

Why?  Store-bought popcorn is either full of artificial colouring or contains additives such as flavouring and preservatives.  All completely unnecessary and can lead to all sorts of issues such as hyperactivity, defiance, learning difficulties, skin issues, asthma and sleep problems.  The additive free alternatives are easy and taste fabulous!  Plus, you have three options…

Option 1 – Buy only plain popcorn with no flavouring (avoid microwave popcorn!)

Option 2 – Buy organic flavoured popcorn (cobs, woolworths macro, wholekids)

Option 3 – Make your own! Popcorn is super easy to make, especially if you get a cheap air popper – they’re not too expensive and get plenty of use, making popcorn that is not oily and super healthy. You can add your own butter, salt, vinegar, herbs or for a special treat, try the salty caramel popcorn recipe by clicking here.


2. Chips

Store bought chips are full of flavouring, preservatives and colouring, especially the flavoured varieties.  Not to mention the 6 different varieties of sugar, flavour enhancers and bad fats!  To minimise or eliminate the additives, try one of these three options, but whenever possible, go for healthier crunchy alternatives, such as fresh vege sticks 🙂

Option 1 – Buy only plain chip varieties (NB: the oils used in chips can contain preservatives that give nasty side effects without being mentioned in the labels due to a loophole – see info on fruit juices below to explain this loophole)

Option 2 – Buy organic flavoured varieties – plenty available, but be careful as they can still have loads of flavour enhancers, sugars and colours that can cause issues for kids reactive to glutamates and salicylates.

Option 3 – Make your own (very easily) with potato, or make it even healthier (and yummier) by using different veges, such as sweet pot, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, squash, eggplant – the options are endless!

How? Just slice thinly with a mandolin (if you don’t have one, slice as thinly as possible with a knife or try using a peeler), sprinkle with olive oil and salt, pop in preheated oven at 200deg C and cook for about an 15-25 mins, turning so both sides crisp up. Once cooked, let them sit for 10 mins out of oven to crisp up. You might find you have to adjust cooking time based on your oven and how thinly you slice them.

Why not try the latest craze and make kale chips – tear the leaves up, sprinkle with oil and salt and pop on lined tray in preheated oven at 200deg C for 10 mins.

To any of these chips, you can add your own flavouring, such as organic garlic and onion powder, dried herbs and spices (try paprika and chilli for a little spice) or sprinkle with 1 tbs vinegar when putting on oil if you want to make salt and vinegar chips.

3. Fruit juice/poppers/juice box

When it comes to additives, there are two things to look out for in fruit juices.  First is the colouring (yep – they will add colours to make them look pretty instead of theflavoured milk ‘off’ colours that form with a little oxidisation in natural juices).  The other is preservatives.  The problem is, there is a loophole that allows companies to get away with mentioning ingredients if less than 5% of the total product, which means preservatives can go unlabelled very easily.  If in doubt, avoid!  Think about whether a bottle of anything could last for months on a shelf if it didn’t have something added… Would be quite hard I’d imagine, so anything not chilled is more likely to have sneaky additives.  Here are a few options to avoid additives in fruit juice…


Option 1 – Buy only chilled 100% fruit juice from the refrigerated section and dilute with water into a re-usable bottle (diluting it decreases the amount of sugar intake as a glass of juice is high in sugar).

Option 2 – Buy organic fruit juice and again dilute with water in a re-usable bottle or you can also get fruit boxes/poppers in single portions (e.g.: you’ll find some organic juices available in major supermarkets or go to your local health food/organic store)

Option 3 – Make your own freshly juiced fruit or smoothies. This is especially good if you can use a blender and make use of the whole fruit – fibre and all, which is why fruit juices are best as a special treat as they lack the fibre and goodness is lost in the juicing process unless using a slow speed juicer to maintain nutrition. Try our family favourite – watermelon, pineapple and apple with a dash of ginger, and add LSA or chia seeds for extra nutrition. Again, the combinations and options are endless!


4. Vegemite or cheesibite sandwich

Possibly one of the hardest items to come to grips with (as a kid or parent) is that vegemite is full of additives and best to avoid.  It has a particularly nasty caramel colouring, plus flavour enhancers and flavours.  Cheesibite goes far beyond this and into the realm of all sorts of additives, including preservatives.  There’s no denying it’s a hard one to give up for tried and true Aussies, but there are options out there to replace it, and with time, they can become the new vegemite for your family 🙂

Option 1 – Use miso paste (organic is best) instead.  This has quite a strong flavour, so only a little is needed.

Option 2 – Buy organic “I am Mighty” spread from Naked Treaties Byron Bay – a new vegemite substitute that’s organic! Hooray! It is hard to find – unless you can get to their raw food store in Byron, there are a select few places that sell it – I’ve only found one online and they’ve sold out at the moment –  but looking forward to trying it.

Option 3 – Make your Homemade Vege Spread (Vegemite).  This recipe literally takes 5 minutes and is well worth it – the closest thing to vegemite without the nasties!

For cheesibite, add homemade cream cheese (click here for this quick and easy additive free recipe) to any of the above options and voila!


Well folks, that’s four ideas to replace common lunch box foods for your kids.  All that’s required is a little preparation and a different approach to your shopping.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment or post a message on Facebook so we can all work together to help our kids feel calm and happy.

Stay tuned for more tips to make your kids lunch boxes additive free and healthy this school term with Part 2 of this blog coming soon!

Loren x