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Get top marks for your school lunch boxes

Woman and child playing in a garden
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Autumn is a time for returning to school, or maybe this year venturing back to the workplace after working from home.  With being out during the day, how do we make sure that we continue to eat healthily, both for ourselves and our kids. We’ve looked at some handy tips and tricks to ensure lunch on the go stays healthy.

A balanced lunch box for kids

According to the NHS, a healthy, balanced lunch box should contain:

  • Foods that keep them full for longer, like bread, rice and pasta
  • Less fat, opt for lower fat sandwich fillings like lean meats like chicken or fish like tuna
  • Lots of greens, adding salad to their sandwiches everyday will count towards their 5 a day
  • Plenty of veg- add veg to their lunch boxes like cherry tomatoes, carrots and cucumber-they all count towards their 5 a day

Lunch box swaps for kids

The NHS recommends that you try the following easy steps for a healthier lunch box:

  • Swap out sweets - trade sweets, chocolate and cakes for fruit or malt loaf
  • Try reduced-fat cheese, remember that cheese is high in fat and salt so use less of it and opt for a low-fat variety
  • Swap dried fruit for fruit bars- raisins and sultanas for example, can be healthier than processed fruit bars
  • Mix up their lunch box by swapping slices of bread with wraps, bagels or pitta breads.

Remember hydration

Children should stay hydrated throughout the day but it's important to remember that some kid's drinks can be high in sugar. The NHS recommends that water and lower-fat milks are best for children but you can also swap sugary drinks for sugar-free or no added-sugar varieties. Although fruit juice can contribute to your child’s 5 a day, the NHS advises that you limit it to no more than 150 ml once a day at a meal time as they can contain sugars and acids.

Prep the night before

We know that the mornings before school can be hectic, if you are struggling to prepare lunch boxes and breakfast while rushing out the door, remember that you can prep some lunches the night before. Foods like sandwiches can be prepared as you’re making dinner and wrapped and kept in the fridge overnight. You can also add an ice pack into their lunch box to keep food cool throughout the day.

Eat a rainbow

According to Public Health England, almost half of school lunch boxes don’t contain a portion of fruit or vegetables. To help your child eat more fruit and veg, bright and colourful food is encouraged with a focus on adding different textures. Fruit and veg is an easy way to get colour and variety into their diet. PHE also recommend that you can keep lunch boxes exciting by adopting a colour theme for each day or by taking inspiration from different counties or even using foods that are in season.

Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert shares how food can affect our mood:

 

Remember to have fun

Experiment with different lunches and have fun with your lunch box ideas, as long as they’re healthy and nutritious there are lots of different things you can do, and no two lunch boxes have to be the same!

References

www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/healthier-lunchboxes
www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/healthier-snacks-for-kids/lower-sugar-drinks-for-kids-stop-tooth-decay
www.rochford.gov.uk/sites/default/files/fs_packed_lunches_2.pdf
www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/Healthier%20Lunch%20Boxes.pdf