Inside a healthy child’s lunchbox

a lunchbox full of healthy food

Providing your children with healthy and varied lunches and snacks is important for their active growing bodies. Eating healthy food throughout the day gives your kids the nutrients needed to fuel their body and mind, helping them to concentrate and learn. Here are some lunchbox suggestions that are nutritious, easy to prepare and appetising, even after several hours in storage.

Morning and afternoon tea:

  • Fruit - Include a fresh piece of fruit that's easy to eat such as an apple, or include a separate container with a variety of chopped and peeled fruit, for example seedless grapes, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, pineapple and passionfruit. Fruit kebabs on paddle pop sticks are another good option.
  • Yoghurt – Include a tub of natural Greek yoghurt that kids can add to their fruit if desired.
  • Crunchy veggies and dip – Sticks of carrot and celery, snow peas and cherry tomatoes with a dip such as guacamole or hummus makes a nutritious and tasty snack.
  • Healthy muffins – Make your own healthy muffins at the start of the week as a way of including and disguising if necessary, more fruit or veggies in your child's daily diet. Make a savoury option with zucchini, carrot or pumpkin, or a sweeter version with berries or banana.
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds – Add a variety of seeds for kids to munch on throughout the day.
  • Healthy crackers – Include rice crackers, oatcakes, corn cakes, pita crisps or rye crackers with cream cheese, dip or salsa. You could even spread cream cheese on a rice cake and design a funny face using fruit and vegetables. For example, use blueberries for the eyes, capsicum for the nose, a quarter of a cucumber for the mouth, alfalfa sprouts as a beard and asparagus as eyebrows.
  • Muesli bars – Try your hand at making your own muesli bars or slices, or look for options at the supermarket with less than 2g of saturated fat per 100g and less than 15g of sugar per 100g. Try to avoid ones coated in chocolate or yoghurt which can significantly increase their sugar and fat content.
  • Homemade popcorn – Include a small bag or container of air-popped popcorn without added sugar or salt.

Lunch:

  • Sandwiches/wraps/bagels – Sandwiches are a lunchbox mainstay but they needn't be boring or soggy. Fillings could include tuna, turkey, chicken, egg, beans, leftover meat or roast veggies from dinner, grated carrot, crunchy lettuce, spinach or cheese. As a spread and alternative to margarine, use avocado dusted with lemon juice to avoid it going brown and unappealing, tzatziki or hummus. For variety, use different breads such as tortillas, flat bread, bagels or bread rolls so kids don't get bored.
  • Noodles – Cook up hokkien noodles, chop up veggies such as capsicum, snow peas and cherry tomatoes and add beef, lamb or pork and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce.
  • Rainbow fried rice – Combine brown rice, or a mixture of white and brown, with egg and different coloured veggies such as corn, carrots, peas and capsicum.
  • Rice paper rolls – Make your own rice paper rolls, filling rice paper with vermicelli noodles, lettuce or cabbage, sprouts, grated carrot and cucumber with tofu or chicken
  • Sushi – Kids love sushi. Try to make your own at home with fillings like tuna, chicken, rice and veggies.
  • Leftovers – Last night's dinner can become today's lunch. Pasta dishes are an easy option and roasted sweet potato, pumpkin or roast beef can be added to sandwiches and stir-fries.

Drinks:

  • Water – Water is the best choice for kids rather than fruit juice or cordials which are high in sugar and generally unnecessary. Add a chilled bottle of water to their lunchbox. This serves two purposes; it encourages them to stay hydrated and keeps food fresh and cool.

If your child is bringing their lunch home uneaten at the end of the day, try to find the cause. It may be that your child simply needs a bit more variety or there might be a problem with the lunchbox itself. There's lots of different lunchboxes available including a 'bento style' box with different compartments for kids who don't like their foods touching. This might be something to consider. Another great way to encourage your child to eat what's in their lunchbox is to involve them in the process of choosing and preparing the contents.