Stuck for healthy lunch box ideas? Packing your child’s lunch box can be one of the most difficult jobs as a parent. Make it too healthy, and they’ll send half of it home. But load it with white bread, biscuits, crisps and a sugary drink, and lurking in their lunchbox is a cocktail of sugar, salt and refined carbs, perfect for poor attention, bad behaviour and lack of essential nutrients.
The Orange Grove Clinic’s Nutritional Therapist, Catherine Jeans has come up with 10 ten top tips and ideas for healthy lunch boxes any child will enjoy!
- Sandwiches don’t have to be boring! Ham and cheese are the classic staples, but these are loaded with saturated fat and salt. Here are some great ideas to get creative with any lunch box sandwich. Vary your breads – wholemeal pittas, tortilla wraps, 50/50 bread, double decker sandwiches or even cut out sandwiches into shapes. Try different fillings that include some protein, such as egg mayo, tuna and sweetcorn, peanut butter and cucumber, cottage cheese and prawns, or even oatcakes and vegetable sticks with hummus. If you have time, you can also cut different shapes out of your bread, a great way to tempt most fussy eaters.
- Bits and bobs picnic – if you have a really fussy eater, give them tempting nibbles packed into little containers. Strips of chicken breast, cherry tomatoes, chopped up cucumber, baby corn, a mini pot of hummus and strips of pitta bread.
- Make gradual changes – children don’t take well to radical changes over night! Gradually make changes over a few weeks – swap crisps for cherry tomatoes or fruit one week, chocolate for a healthy home-made flapjack the next, white bread to 50/50 and over time to wholemeal. You’ll gradually see which new lunch box ideas work, so that you know where you’re winning.
- Where’s the fruit and veg? All children should be eating at least 5 fruit and vegetables every day – so use their lunchbox to get at least two of these in. Don’t rely on a shrivelled up apple or banana, make fruit and veg fun! Try chopped up vegetable sticks or apple pieces and a mini pot of hummus or cream cheese. Or mini fruit kebabs made with cocktail sticks and a variety of fruits.
- Avoid hidden sugars – if you give your child fromage frais or yoghurt, beware of hidden sugars. Even these lunchbox staples tend to be loaded with sugar. A few brands are finally creeping into the supermarkets that don’t contain added sugar, such as Rachel’s, Plum and Ellas. Read the ingredients lists and check for sugar.
- Give your child choice – even young children tend to eat better when they feel a sense of ownership of their meals, and that includes ideas for their lunch boxes. Make Fridays their turn to pack their own lunch box, as long as they’ve eaten well the rest of the week. Or give them a choice between several healthy things, or let them help plan the weekly lunchbox menu.
- Drinks – fizzy drinks and flavoured waters are a source of unnecessary sugar. Even ready-made juices and smoothies contain concentrated sugar from fructose, not great for the teeth or afternoon energy levels. Try diluting fresh juices with water or very dilute squash.
- The Sunday cook up – the weekendsare a great time to cook some healthy lunchbox snacks with your kids to use the following week. Even shop bought flapjacks are full of sugar from treacle and large amounts of butter. Use sugar replacements to make flapjacks such as Agave syrup, mashed banana and a little xylitol, and pack your flapjacks with chopped nuts and seeds for added goodness and protein.
- The perfect crisp replacement – seeds are a great source of essential fats, protein, vitamins and minerals… but on their own most kids won’t go near them! Toast some seeds with a little honey and soy sauce, and they make the perfect crisp replacement.
- If you must have chocolate – try to avoid giving kids chocolate every day, and make it a Friday treat. If you can stick to dark chocolate (at least 70%), it’s a great source of iron, magnesium and manganese. Use it to cover nuts or seeds, or dip a few pieces of fruit in it.
If you would like further nutritional advice or healthy lunch box and meal ideas from nutritional therapist Catherine Jeans DipION mBANT CNHC, then contact reception on or you can contact her via reception here. Many clients come for just one appointment, to check on their diet and ensure they and their family are eating a healthy, balanced diet. For more information go to Catherine’s therapist page.