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Making kids lunch boxes healthier

Updated on November 20, 2013

Healthy lunch boxes

As parents, it is up to us to ensure that our children eat healthily. Thanks to people like Jamie Oliver, schools have made big improvements toward making school meals much healthier. But what if your child prefers to have a packed lunch? Trying to find food that is a) healthy and b) that kids like, can be a headache.

What should go in the ideal lunch box?

  • one carbohydrate food
  • one portion of fruit
  • one portion of vegetables
  • one dairy food
  • one protein food
  • a drink

To ensure that your childs lunch box never becomes repetitive and dull, you need to plan a varied menu each day. Children require between 200 and 300 calories at lunchtime to maintain their energy levels throughout the school day.

Packed lunches should contain one portion from each of the  5 main food groups
Packed lunches should contain one portion from each of the 5 main food groups

Lunch box menu ideas

Day 1

Cheese and tomato sandwich


fromage frais

small carton of milk

Day 2

Bowl of tuna pasta with sweetcorn



bottle of water

Day 3

Cheese and wholemeal crackers

carrot sticks


pure fruit juice

Day 4

2/3 slices of chicken

small bowl of salad - lettuce, cress,cucumber, grated carrot

handful of raisins

yoghurt drink

Day 5

Tortilla wrap with ham

cherry tomatoes

kiwi fruit

small carton of milk

Choosing one portion from each of the five food groups is important in ensuring that your child receives a balanced meal at lunchtime. Here are a few ideas for each of the groups:

Carbohydrate Group-

rolls, bagels, bread, rice, pasta, mini pitta bread, tortilla wraps, pizza slices and wholemeal crackers.

Vegetable Portion-

lettuce, cress, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, celery, peppers and sweetcorn.

Fruit Portion-

apple, pear, cherries, mandarins, clementines, grapes, peach, kiwi fruit, pineapple raisins and other dried fruits.

Dairy Portion-

individual pots of rice or custard, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais.

Protein Portion-

Tuna, ham, sliced chicken, sliced turkey, eggs, cold meat, vegetarian sausage, chicken drumsticks


Milk, milkshake, Fruit smoothie, pure fruit juice, water, yoghurt drink.

NB - Peanut butter is a good source of protein, but always check with your childs school, some do not allow products containing nuts if any pupil has a nut allergy.

What about treats?

Treats such as biscuits, cakes, crisps, pancakes, cereal bars etc should be given as an occasional treat. As long as children do not have a treat as a daily occurrence, then this is fine. Some schools differ - my daughters school has a policy that no chocolate or crisps should be packed in their lunchbox.

Lunch boxes

There are many different types of lunch boxes on the market for boys and girls, some with their favourite characters or football teams and some incorporate a cool bag. Most schools tend to store them in a cool place to avoid food becoming warm during the morning.

Personally, I think it is a good idea for children to choose their own design of lunch box - my daughter seems to eat more of her lunch now that she has a "kitten" box. Strange!


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