How to build a healthy lunchbox

Packing a healthy lunchbox is the ultimate dilemma, how do you pack a lunch that is healthy and nutritious but interesting enough for the kids to actually eat it and not end up with 75% of their lunch coming home again? We’ve assembled the ultimate Back to School blog post to inspire healthy (and more importantly quick) lunches for the whole year.

The key to packing healthy and fun lunchboxes is following the same basic ‘formula’ and switching up each component to keep lunches varied and interesting. Give your child options and let them choose or even help with preparing lunch to keep them engaged.

Healthy lunchbox = Main Meal + Fruits/Veggies + Snack + Drink

(See below for inspiration for each category)

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Main Meal: as the name suggests this should be the main component of the meal and should contain protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Here are some examples:

  • Wholewheat wraps with hummus and spinach
  • Wholemeal pitta bread with cheese, tomato and lettuce
  • Pasta salad (we’ve linked a great recipe in our blog post here)
  • Couscous salad (kid-friendly recipe here)
  • Rainbow sushi (We love this recipe and the kids can get involved making it)
  • Homemade mini pizzas
  • Wholemeal or seeded bread sandwiches:
    • Chicken, lettuce & cucumber
    • Hummus, tomato & lettuce
    • Hummus, falafel & spinach
    • Ham & lettuce
    • Avocado, hummus, lettuce & tomato
    • Cheese & tomato
    • Egg mayo & cress
    • Cream cheese & roasted red peppers
    • Tuna mayo, lettuce & cucumber
    • PB & J (Tip: use natural peanut butter & low sugar raspberry or blackcurrant jam)

Fruits/Veggies: prepare and cut up the fruit/veg as much as possible to make it easy & appetising to eat. Tip: Aim for 2/3 portions of fruit & veg with lunch.

  • Orange segments or apple slices
  • Grapes
  • Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or blackberries
  • Baby carrots
  • Cucumber or celery sticks
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Melon chunks
  • Mango chunks
  • Peach slices

Snack: the snack component of the lunch should still be healthy but also be a bit more exciting and something they look forward to.

  • A handful of mixed nuts
  • Dried apricots or raisins (Tip: stick to small portions with dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to kids’ teeth)
  • Popcorn (Tip: look for low sugar/low salt popcorn or make your own if you have time)
  • Malt loaf (Tip: swap a cake/chocolate bar for a slice of malt loaf, it’s lower in sugar and less likely to cause a spike in sugar levels)
  • Yoghurt pot with berries & a sprinkle of granola
  • Crackers
  • Rice/corn cakes
  • Baked crisps (Tip: try not to include crisps everyday but more as an occasional ‘treat’)
  • Baked goods (Tip: there’s millions of great recipes online for low sugar baked muffins, biscuits etc. that makes a great lunchbox addition. Why not start with this recipe for low sugar blueberry muffins?)

Drink: the liquid component of the lunchbox is important for ensuring kids stay hydrated, we always recommend trying to avoid too many fruit juices or sugary drinks.

  • Water. Plain water is always the best option for a lunchbox.
  • Diluted fruit juice. Tip: if your children don’t like plain water, try adding a small amount of fruit juice to a bottle of water.
  • Milk. Tip: Try a small bottle (~200ml) of semi-skimmed milk or fortified plant milk for a change.

Packed lunches are brilliant ways to keep children sustained throughout a long, tiring school day and also a great way to stay on top of what they’re eating. Remember to give children options of what they have in their lunchboxes and let them help out to encourage them to take ownership of healthy food choices. Finally, we hope that this blog post has shown that packed lunches can be healthy AND exciting, helping you to start the new school year with fresh, fun ideas.


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