Expert Paediatric Nutritionist’s 15 Clever Hacks to Slash Your Child’s Sugar Intake

Lifestyle, Nutrition Advice

It may shock you to find out that kids’ lunchboxes can contain up to 40 teaspoons of sugar which can lead to energy highs and lows, mood swings, weight gain and potential risk of diabetes later in life. We’re so thrilled to be featuring certified Paediatric Nutritionist Mandy Sacher, our JSHealth Kids Health Expert, on the blog today to share the best ways to cut down children’s sugar intake.


For most mums, it’s a daily challenge trying to pack a lunchbox with healthy foods that kids will actually eat. Unfortunately, most “healthy” supermarket foods are anything but that, despite what the packaging may claim. Just last month, the ACCC announced that it was taking food giant Heinz to court over its Little Kids Shredz products, which contain more than 60 percent sugar. And as we know, excessive sugar is a leading cause of issues such as tooth decay, behavioural problems, obesity and type 2 diabetes.


As filmmaker Damon Gameau demonstrated in That Sugar Film, some kids lunchboxes can contain up to 40 teaspoons of sugar in the form of “healthy” foods, such as organic apple and blackcurrant juice, sesame snaps, fruit bars, organic sultanas, a muffin bar, fruity bites, a fruit jelly pack and a jam sandwich.


So here are 15 simple and easy swaps that will help slash your kids daily sugar intake and hopefully also mean their lunchboxes come home empty. The benefits are HUGE and as a result  your kids will have better concentration at school, more stable moods (less tantrums and tears!) and will go to sleep far more easily at night.


10 Simple Lunchbox Swaps

  • Swap sultanas for grapes A small pack of Sunbeam sultanas contains five teaspoons of sugar. Five to six (cut) grapes contain only 1 teaspoon by comparison.
  • Swap sweet popcorn for salty popcorn. Just as tasty but much less sugar!
  • Swap “squeezy” yoghurts for reusable pouches filled with natural yoghurt sweetened with a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey. Most squeezy yoghurts contain around three teaspoons of sugar.
  • Dilute everything If your child likes chocolate milk dilute it with natural milk, dilute fruit juice with water, dilute sugary yoghurt with natural yoghurt, and tomato ketchup with plain passata.
  • Use sugar substitutes Reduce the sugar content of home-made baked goods by adding in dates or a few drops of 100% natural stevia powder (not mixed with erythirtol)
  • Mix jam sandwiches with peanut butter or for a school-friendly version, mix with sunflower butter.
  • Swap sports drinks with flavoured coconut water. Gatorade has 9 teaspoons of sugar while coconut water contains just 1-2 teaspoons.
  • Swap supermarket bars Snack bars, granola bars, muesli bars all contain sugar – get used to reading the labels of these products so you pick the ones with the least amount of sugar in them. Carmen’s Original Fruit muesli bar has less sugar than Milo Energy Snack bars, for example.
  • Swap raisin toast for wholemeal toast
  • Swap store-bought crumpets for home-made pancakes or pancake mixes that don’t contain sugar


Plus Five More Tips For the Home

  • When buying treats, choose a child-sized package rather than a large one.
  • Decant treats into smaller portions rather than taking along the whole bag of treats when you’re out and about.
  • Swap 100% drinking chocolate for a blend of drinking chocolate, carob, cacao powder and a little stevia.
  • Keep junk food out of the home Have set times for desserts or treats, like on a Saturday morning after sport is the time when you go and get ice-cream, so children don’t nag and pester but know when to expect “sometimes” foods.
  • Swap sugary breakfast cereal for a wholegrain breakfast cereal and sprinkle a little of your child’s favourite sugary one on top while they are transitioning. Another great trick is to sweeten with teaspoon of carob powder – your child will think it’s a chocolate cereal.


Mandy Sacher is a certified Paediatric Nutritionist and Founder of Wholesome Child. Her clinical practice focuses on prenatal and childhood nutrition, helping parents and mums-to-be-feed their children healthy, nourishing foods right from the start.

She has appeared recently on Channel Ten’s Everyday Health and is currently writing her first book, The Wholesome Child Nutrition Guide and Recipe Book, which will be available to purchase mid-April.




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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.