Whether it’s for school or holiday camps, we know that parents can always use some fresh healthy lunch box ideas. With many schools imposing new food restrictions, it can be challenging for parents to provide varied packed lunches throughout the week.
Our guide shares some top tips for packing school lunches, as well as some healthy lunch box ideas for easy to make lunches for kids, that won’t break the bank!
While each school has their own policy on what is allowed in a packed lunch, they tend to follow the general rule of no processed sugars. That means restrictions on chocolate, sweets, crisps, cake, biscuits, and sugary drinks.
While this is far healthier for children, it does rule out a lot of traditional lunch foods.
The Children’s Food Trust recommends that a school packed lunch is made up of:
• Starchy foods, such as bread, pasta or potatoes
• Fruit and vegetables, such as sliced cucumber or carrot, and a piece of fruit
• Meat, fish, eggs or beans, such as chicken strips or a boiled egg
• Dairy, such as yoghurt or cheese in a sandwich
• A drink, such as a sugar-free juice, milk or water
Not only does this encourage a balanced diet for children’s lunches, but it also ensures that kids have enough energy to learn and play throughout the day.
With crisps and cakes out of the picture, what packaged snacks can you include in packed lunches? We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites that are free from processed sugar and count towards your kids five a day.
One of your child’s five a day, Bear Yoyos are a chewy strip with the same amount of sugar as an apple. Their sweet, and slightly tangy flavour provides variation for kids and, as an added bonus, are also suitable for vegans. You can find Bear Yoyos at Tesco.
Easy to transport, this yoghurt-style drink has no added sugar and an indulgent mango flavour. Due to the live cultures, this drink also provides children with an important dose of gut-friendly bacteria to support digestion and boost their immune system. These can be found in both Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
A dairy-free alternative to yoghurt, this fruit puree combines fruits with coconut milk for a naturally sweet taste. It also counts toward your child’s five a day. You can find these on Tesco shelves.
If you’re looking for an easy snack that is full of vegetables, Little Roots supply a range of nuggets, minis and chunks that are made from fresh vegetables and are low in saturated fat. These can be enjoyed warm, straight from the oven, while leftovers can be enjoyed the next day for lunch. You can find Little Roots snacks in the frozen section of ASDA and Tesco.
A great alternative to crisps is popcorn without toffee or added sugar. Propercorn makes individually packaged popcorn that can easily be added to lunches. Despite being called sweet, Propercorn Kids is made with no artificial flavourings and has a small amount of unrefined sugar added. Individually packaged Propercorn Kids can be found at ASDA.
Variety is key to encouraging a healthy diet for children. However, we understand it’s not always easy to come up with healthy, new lunch box ideas, especially when you’re short on time in the mornings.
Lunchbox snacks don’t need to always be pre-packaged from the supermarket shelf. Simple snacks are often the healthiest and will mean that you save on time as well as money.
It may seem obvious, but including a variety of fruit and vegetables in your child’s lunchbox over the week is a simple way to keep lunches varied. Veggies such as cherry tomatoes or carrot fingers are easy to prepare and fun for kids to eat.
Flapjacks are a popular snack as they don’t require too much cooking time and they travel well. By using fruits and honey in your flapjacks, you can avoid adding unnecessary processed sugars while still making a sweet snack.
For the base of the flapjacks, use 150g of porridge oats, 100g of spread and 2 tbsp of honey. From there, you can add about 250g of a variety of fruits. We would recommend diced dried apricots, diced dried cranberries, chopped dates, grated pear and even orange zest. Cook for 40 – 45 minutes at 160℃ fan forced.
While sandwiches are easy to make and a lunchbox staple, they don’t always offer a lot of variety for children. Here are some easy to make alternatives to sandwiches:
An easy recipe that you can make with your children, tomato and bacon muffins are a great option for you to bake together on Sunday ready for Monday lunches. Why not download our recipe card? It’s part of our free Stay Active Resources, and contains easy steps for you and your child to follow together.
A great way to use leftovers, chicken salad wraps are a versatile sandwich alternative. Using wraps, chicken and mayonnaise as a base, you can add whatever salad is in your fridge. We’d recommend adding tomato, cucumber, pepper or sliced spring onions if you have any in the fridge.
Egg pesto pasta salad is a great choice for when you’re getting close to a food shop. It primarily uses cupboard ingredients and can be added to if you need to use up leftover salad leaves. Cook 100g of any pasta left in your cupboard and mix in 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of pesto. Finally, add in your sliced boiled egg.
A great source of protein and vegetables, this lunch can be adapted to suit your child’s tastes. If your child has quite mature tastes, they may enjoy smoked salmon, lettuce and cream cheese on their bagel. If not, they may prefer tinned salmon, cucumber, lettuce and mayonnaise filling.
If you’re looking for more school lunch box ideas, there are a number of handy resources online.
The NHS’s Change 4 Life website provides guidance and inspiration for lunchboxes as well as healthy alternatives to traditional lunch snacks.
Social media channels such as TikTok or YouTube also have a variety of channels dedicated purely to lunch box ideas and meal prep for children and families. And, if you’re looking to take your lunch boxes to a new level, you should check out Jessica Woo’s Bento Boxes TikTok channel. If you’re not on TikTok, you can find a compilation of her videos on YouTube as well.