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Beware the mark-ups attached to handily lunchbox-sized fruit, veg... and now water; Chopping your own fruit is the cheaper way.

Byline: Sally Williams

SLICED melon, quartered apples... and now mini bottles of water.

Wales' largest producer of bottled H20 has joined the biggest trend in children's food since, well, sliced bread: lunchbox-sized portions.

From miniature boxes of raisins to bespoke bunches of grapes, supermarket shelves are filled with healthy food packages designed to slot handily into a meal package in the increasingly competitive battle for the lunch market.

But experts last night warned parents to beware the mark-ups attached to handily portioned fruit, veg... and now water.

The new Brecon Carreg for Kids range costs pounds 1.79 for six 300ml bottles - compared to a two litre bottle of the exact same substance, which costs just 59p.

Similarly, a small packet of chopped up pineapple generally costs around pounds 2, while a whole one will set a buyer back just 89p - plus a few minutes of chopping.

And it should add up to a series of capital gains from bulk buying, experts claim except it doesn't always work out quite like that.

"It should be a no-brainer," said Gareth Price, a spokesman for Consumer Focus Wales.

"Chopping your own fruit means reduced packaging, so it's is better for the environment, and it's almost always cheaper than buying pre-prepared food, so it's better for your pocket too.

"Yet we know that convenience is also a crucial factor in the choices we make about food.

"That's why shops stock pre-packaged fruit and veg and busy consumers sometimes choose it." Busy lifestyles lead to many Welsh parents throwing together a healthy-looking lunchbox at the end of a long working day as quickly as possible, after stocking up on a week's worth of conveniently-packed fresh foods in supermarkets, said dietician, Sioned Quirk, who works in the South Wales Valleys.

And they often end up spending a lot more and getting less for it, as a result of a perceived need for convenience..

But if they spent just a little extra thought and time preparing a lunchbox, buying economy items in bulk and chopping their own fruit instead of buying it sliced, she said they could literally save pounds every week.

"Whatever you can do yourself - do it," she said.

"You will find that you get much better value and your kids will be healthier as a result.

"Buy fruit and vegetable that are in season, in bulk, instead of in handy packs..

"The cost of one chopped carrot with a dip can be as much as for a 1.5kg bag of carrots! "And the price of a chopped apple can be almost as much as a whole bag of them.

"Prepare your own sandwiches and pitta wraps.

"Bread can always be frozen so there is no need for waste.

"If you save some extra chopped vegetables from tea, add a slice of meat and pop them in a pitta pocket "You can have a free kid's meal that doesn't take very much extra time.

"And chopping off slices of fresh cheese is much better than buying processed cheese, which can be high in salt, fat and additives.

"Snack bars are easy to grab from the cupboard but try to limit treats to twice a week - canned economy fruit would be much better.

"And water bottles can easily be refilled with tap water." Explaining the firms reason for launching the luchbox bottled water product, Liz Sherry, general manager of Brecon Carreg, said: "Our water is an inexpensive way to pass on a little of that outdoor feel-good factor.

"Brecon Carreg is a trusted, wholesome brand for active families.

"So it was logical to extend the brand's range by launching a product for children." She added: "The bottles look appealing too with their vibrant pictures - which will help encourage children to reach for this healthiest of drinks."

Children's lunch boxes 'have too much fat, salt and sugar'

Some five million children's lunch boxes are prepared in British homes every weekday but a Food Standards Agency survey revealed that three out of four of these were likely to contain foods that were too high in saturated fat, salt or sugar.

According to a survey by Mintel, 45% of pupils say they prefer to have a packed lunch than a school meal..

A healthy lunchbox should provide one third of a child's daily requirements of nutrients, including a source of protein to keep children alert; a complex carbohydrates for slow-release energy; calcium for growth, healthy bones and teeth and plenty of fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals.

A survey of 1,500 parents, commissioned by online grocery retailer Tesco.com, revealed that most of them involve their children in deciding lunchbox items, with 93% saying that they ask their children's opinions before selecting foods.

Parents also said they spent an average of three minutes a day evaluating the nutritional content in their children's diets..

Pre-packed v bulk-buying Apple Whole Royal Gala apple: 22p each Sainsbury's Pink Lady apple slices, 80g: 50p per packet Melon Half honeydew melon: around pounds 1 Sainsbury's sliced melon, 380g: pounds 2.49 Pineapple Whole pineapple: around 89p Sainsbury's sliced pineapple, 400g: pounds 2 Raisins 1lb bag of regular raisins: around 89p Individually boxed Tesco Sun-Maid Natural California Raisins Mini-Snacks, 18 x 14g: pounds 2.29 Water Brecon Carreg for Kids, 6 x 300ml: pounds 1.89 Brecon Carreg, two litres: 59pChopping your own fruit means reduced packaging, so it's better for the environment, and it's almost always cheaper than buying pre-prepared food, so it's better for your pocket too

CAPTION(S):

EXPENSIVE EATS: Child's lunchbox containing Kingsmill Crusts Away bread pounds 1.22, Nakd Amazin raisins orange infused 39p, Sainsbury's melon pounds 1.39, Sainsbury's Kids Fairtrade bananas pounds 1.29, Sainsbury's pineapple pounds 2
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 18, 2009
Words:954
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