Healthy Lunch Boxes

School Of Nutrition Posted Sep 30, 2013 Future Fit Training

Here is some useful information to help you prepare tasty, delicious lunches that your children will like and, more importantly, eat!

Healthy Lunch Boxes

Packing a lunch box can be a bit of a chore, but a healthy nutritious meal at school is very important to child development. A packed lunch should be healthy, ensuring adequate vitamins, minerals and energy are provided to children. It can also be a challenge and packed lunches often lack the nutrients required. 

Make it nutritious- in order to ensure that your child has ample fuel to power through the afternoon, include a balanced variety of foods in their lunch box from the major food groups. Remember that no single food can provide all the essential nutrients that our bodies need. Use the ‘Eatwell Plate’ as a guide to ensure you're covering all the bases.


Eatwell Plate

Here are some additional tips on making lunchtime nutritious:

Carbohydrates should always form part of a packed lunch- choose whole wheat versions instead of white. Wholegrains are loaded with nutrients and fibre, while their refined counterparts are lacking. If your child doesn’t like wholegrain bread, try 50:50 to start off with and gradually move to whole wheat. Examples are carbohydrates that are perfect for the lunch box are:

  • Wholegrain bread, rolls, baguettes, tortilla wraps or bagels
  • Pasta, rice or couscous such as a pasta salad
  • Potatoes such as a homemade potato salad

Don't skip fruits and vegetables 

Try to add at least one fruit and one vegetable to the lunch box. Canned fruits and vegetables are nutritious and can be time saving and cheaper; just make sure it is preserved in fruit juice, not syrup and check the salt content. Here are some great ways to add fruit and vegetables to your child’s lunchtime:

  • Add salad to sandwiches
  • Chop carrots, peppers and cucumber into sticks as a snack
  • Add a tub or small can of fruit salad, some grapes or a piece of seasonal fruit such as a clementine or peach
  • Include a banana, apple, pear or orange
  • Add dried fruit such as apricots, sultanas, raisins and figs
  • Include a small carton of pure, unsweetened fruit juice

Include one serving of protein for sustained energy - besides lean meats, good protein sources include nuts, fish, cheese and beans. Some easy-to-pack examples include:

  • Cheese cubes
  • Hummus
  • Lentil or quorn based products

Add one serving of dairy for calcium - examples are:

  • A carton of yoghurt or fromage frais, preferably plain or fruit varieties
  • A small carton of semi-skimmed milk
  • A serving of reduced fat cheese such as Edam, mozzarella, cottage or reduced fat cheddar

Avoid foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar - water and milk are better drink options.

Encouraging your child to eat their lunchLunch box

  • Children are more inclined to eat their food if they’ve been involved in preparing it, so let your child help you make the lunch the evening before
  • Give your child a few approved options to choose from
  • Create a menu with your child such as the one provided below
  • Use leftover food from dinner such as home-made pizza
  • Remember how much time your child has to eat! Some schools give kids as little as 20 minutes to eat lunch, so peel, chop, seed, and spread in advance
  • Don’t pack new foods! Wait until the weekend to try new foods so you can be there to encourage your child to try it
  • Check your child’s lunch box when they return home. If it’s not empty then find out why. Children sometimes find it overwhelming when too much food is packed so you may need to adjust your portion sizes
  • If your child likes to eat the same lunch every day and it’s balanced, then respect this preference 

Important points to remember

  • Remember that your child’s lunch will remain in their lunch boxes for at least 3 hours before they can eat it
  • In many classrooms, school bags are placed near radiators so lunch boxes can become warm. To keep      cold foods cold, refrigerate lunches until you’re ready to walk out the door and include an ice pack with perishable items


Check out this example menu of easy ideas for your children:


Mid-morning snack



  • Vegetable sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber) with hummus
  • Ham, cucumber and lettuce wholegrain sandwich
  • Fresh seasonal fruit salad
  • Ham, cucumber and lettuce wholegrain sandwich
  • Fresh seasonal fruit salad


  • Fresh apple or pear or piece of fresh seasonal fruit

  • Reduced fat cheese stick

  • Fruit kebab

  • Sweet chilli chicken pitta pockets with cream cheese, lettuce, cucumber and carrot
  • Fruit kebab


  • Fruit fromage frais
  • Cherry tomato, cucumber and tuna pasta salad
  • 2 plums
  • Cherry tomato, cucumber and tuna pasta salad
  • 2 plums


  • Vegetable sticks with guacamole
  • Mini meatball salad
  • Cut apples with lemon juice
  • Mini meatball salad
  • Cut apples with lemon juice


  • Cheese stick
  • Wholegrain crackers
  • Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken and cut vegetables
  • Dried or fresh fruit  such as apricots
  • Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken and cut vegetables
  • Dried or fresh fruit  such as apricots



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