Healthy packed lunches cost on average 45% more than unhealthy options

Packed lunches image

Healthy packed lunches cost parents on average 45% more than unhealthy options

New analysis from The Food Foundation as part of its Kid’s Food Guarantee has found that:

  • It’s 45% more expensive, on average, for parents to feed their children a healthy packed lunch than it is to provide them unhealthy, less nutritious options
  • Prices of healthy options have risen by up to 9% over the last six months in four out of five major retailers, despite a slowing in food price inflation since last November
  • The Food Foundation is calling on retailers to ensure that any falls in the price of food are swiftly passed onto consumers and that nutritious items that are staples for a child’s healthy diet are prioritised.

An unhealthy packed lunch is more affordable than a healthy one

Across all five retailers looked at (Morrisons, Sainsburys, Aldi, Asda and Tesco), the unhealthy packed lunch was substantially cheaper, clearly demonstrating the barriers parents face when trying to feed their children an adequately nutritious diet.

Tesco did, however, came out best again when compared to others, with a healthy lunch being just 9% more expensive than the unhealthy packed lunch. Aldi had the biggest discrepancy in price, with the healthy packed lunch being 77% more expensive than the unhealthy packed lunch.

If parents feel they have no choice but to opt for the cheaper, unhealthy options this could start to impact on a child's health over time.

The unhealthy lunchbox items generally contain more sugar, and less fibre and micronutrients than the healthy lunch. For example, the unhealthy lunch contains white bread instead of wholemeal bread, with white bread more highly processed and containing less fibre than wholemeal.

Instead of cheese in the sandwich, there is chocolate spread, which is 50% sugar; and instead of a plain, unsweetened yogurt, there is a flavoured yogurt which contains approximately 2.5 times as much sugar. There are no fruit and veg in the unhealthy lunch compared to four portions in the healthy lunch.