A parent's guide to packing a healthy lunchbox

Do you find it difficult to keep your children's lunchboxes healthy but also exciting and tempting enough for them to eat? You're not alone! Gather some tips from our parent's guide to packing a healthy lunchbox

Trying to make your child's lunchbox exciting and healthy can be a difficult task. All parents know that it is important to provide a lunch that is not only healthy lunch but also one that your child will actually eat.

School dinners are currently free for children aged from four-seven in state-funded UK primary schools and certain criteria mean your child might qualify for a free hot lunch beyond that.

But if you don't qualify, or you child prefers a packed lunch, you might find yourself reaching for a lunchbox, and it can be difficult to come up with new ideas every week day. Our guide to packing a healthy lunchbox will hopefully give you some simple ideas on how you can achieve this through a variety of different foods so your child doesn't become bored.

Make sure you read our guide to dealing with fussy eaters if mealtimes are a struggle. And as per that post, try and include your child in preparing their lunch boxes by helping to choose the foods they like at the supermarket and preparing the food.

Try to include each of the main groups:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Protein
  • Milk and dairy products

Try and limit the intake of unhealthy fats and sugar:

  • If you make your own cakes, try cutting down the amount of sugar and replace it with honey or dried fruits.
  • Replace full fat dressings and spreads such as mayonnaise and cream cheese with the reduced fat variety.
  • When adding meats as fillings, try and use fresh lean meat and not processed meats. It might be a little less convenient, but you'll be cutting out a lot of fat and salt.

Lunchbox suggestions

You could include one item from each of the following sections:

The main meal
Wholemeal bread, pitta bread pockets, tortilla wraps, French sticks or bagels.

Vary the fillings daily... cheese sandwiches every day of the week can get a bit boring!

  • Tuna (in brine) with sweetcorn, cucumber and reduced fat mayonnaise
  • Roast chicken salad
  • Cheese salad
  • Egg mayonnaise and tomato
  • Humus and cucumber

Alternatively, try and give different foods to break the routine. This can include:

  • Small slice of pizza
  • Mixed vegetable and rice salad
  • Small piece of quiche
  • Kebabs with a yogurt dip
  • Pasta with salad and grilled chicken or tuna
  • Roasted vegetables and chicken in a tortilla wrap with salsa

The treat
Include a semi-sweet or savoury treat. Always check with your school first as they might have strict guidelines. Examples of things you could include are:

  • Currant bun
  • Cereal bar (these can be a healthy alternative to sweets and chocolates but some can be quite high in sugar, which is bad for teeth. Choose a low sugar variety).
  • Flapjack
  • Small muffin
  • Small portion of unsalted nuts and currants

Or add a dairy product as an extra source of calcium:

  • Cheese sticks or Babybell
  • Small pot of low fat fruit yogurt
  • Small pot of fromage frais

On your way to five a day...
Don't forget to include a portion of fruit or vegetables to help achieve the recommended five a day!

  • 1 piece of fruit e.g. apple, banana, satsuma or peach
  • Small handful of grapes
  • Slices of melon
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks
  • 1 mini can of fruit pieces in juice (not syrup as this is very high in sugar)
  • Small portion of dried fruit. A small box of raisins or 3 dried apricots counts as one portion of the 5 a day recommendation.

Keep hydrated
It is important for your child to keep hydrated throughout the day. Make sure they have a water bottle at school and take regular drinks.

If you found our guide to packing a healthy lunchbox helpful, read our tips on fussy eating and fitness hacks for mums

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