One of the biggest burdens of school life is making a packed lunch that children can, and will eat. Most of the time parents find that children ask for the same lunch every day and while they do not tire of it, it would prove beneficial to try and squeeze in as many of the food groups as possible for a well-rounded balance diet.
So what goes into a healthy packed lunch?
Bread, cereals, potatoes and other starchy foods
- How many? At least one item from this food group.
- Examples: sandwiches, pitta bread, wraps, pasta salad, potato salad, potato or sweet potato wedges, rice dishes, couscous, bread sticks, crackers, rice cakes, and plain popcorn.
Fruits and vegetables
- How many? At least one fruit and one vegetable.
- Examples: fresh fruit, tinned fruits, dried fruits, salad items, and any type of vegetable. You could include vegetable sticks for dipping or add veggies to salads, pasta or rice or couscous dishes.
Dairy and dairy alternatives
- How many? At least one portion of dairy or fortified dairy alternative.
- Examples: cheese, yoghurts (or dairy-free alternative e.g. soya yoghurts), custard (soya custard), rice pudding, a carton of milk or yoghurt-based smoothies, a carton of milk or a dairy-free alternative such as soya, oat milk or coconut milk.
Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- How many? At least one portion from this food group.
- Examples: chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, beans, fish, shellfish, lentils, chickpeas, pulses, hummus, Quorn or soya products such as tofu.
- Milk and water are the best drinks for children because they are tooth-friendly.
Coming up with ideas daily can be such a chore. An idea is to print off a lunch planner and prepare for the week ahead to avoid the dread of having to come up with a last-minute idea the night before. To prep for the week see some examples that have proven a hit and also get children to try new food groups –
Examples of Main dishes
- Turkey and cheese wrap
- Ham and Cheese croissant
- Tuna Sandwich
- Ham and Cheese Bagel
- Peanut Butter Sandwich
- Chicken Nuggets and Dipping Sauces
- Pasta – Ravioli, Tortellini, or Spaghetti with Sauce of Choice
- Hard-Boiled Eggs or an Egg Salad Sandwich
- Simple Breakfast Burrito – Scrambled Eggs, Cheese, and Bacon in a Tortilla
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Healthy Muffins (Banana, Apple, Zucchini, Blueberry etc.)
- DIY “Lunchables” – Deli Meat, Cheese, and Crackers
- Mini Burger/Turkey Burger Sliders
- Breakfast for Lunch – Waffles, Pancakes, or French Toast
- Egg Rolls
- Mini Pizzas – English Muffin, Pizza Sauce, Cheese, and Toppings
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich Sticks
- Fruit and cheese kebabs
- Pinwheel sandwiches
- Pita Bread and Hummus
Examples of Fruit:
Example of Veggies:
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Cucumber Slices
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Sliced Peppers
- Mixed leaf Salad
Examples of Snacks:
- Fruit – Strawberries, Bananas, Grapes, Blueberries, Melon, Pears, etc.
- Veggies – Carrots, Celery, Peppers, etc. with a Side of sauce for dipping!
- Mini Muffins
- Cheese – String Cheese, Babybel, Cheddar Cubes, etc.
- Raisins or Dried Fruit
- Dry Cereal
- Crackers – Graham Crackers, Ritz, Rice crackers
- Cottage Cheese
- Nuts – Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, etc.
- Veggie Straws
- Granola bars
- Oat cookies
- Cream Rice
- Tortilla Chips
- Fruit loaf
How Do I Make My Packed Lunch Look Good For Fussy Eaters?
Want to make packed lunches look fun? Try the following:
- Use cookie cutters for sandwiches.
- Visual appeal is often the deciding factor to a ‘yes’ from your child when opening their lunchbox, so add colour, vibrancy and excitement with vegetables and fruit.
- No bruises or spots – unfortunately, this is one of the frustrating things that children typically won’t touch. They think it’s inedible or going to affect the taste. So, try and pick the fruits with the least bruising.
- Lastly, keep lunchboxes clean and tidy. Many children dislike food groups mixed, put individual items in separate pots where possible.