How to pack a healthy lunch box

With food your kids will actually eat 

January 10, 2023In RecipesBy Better Health Company

Packing school lunch boxes with foods that your kids will actually eat can be a challenge! But, what’s in your child’s lunch box makes up a third of their daily nutrients. So, try to provide a variety of different foods that are appealing but also that provide all the nutrients they need to grow, play and learn.  

To alleviate some of the stress that comes with lunch box prep, follow this simple guide to build lunchboxes for your child. 

Remember the five food groups?  

Well, the key to providing your child with a balanced, nutritious and healthy lunch is to include foods from each of the five food groups. 

Step 1. Start with grains as your base.  

Grains are essential to include in your child’s lunchbox daily to give them enough energy to play and concentrate throughout the day. Provide brown or wholegrain varieties most often as they have more fibre and will keep your kids feeling fuller and energised for longer.  

Here are some ways you can include grains into your child’s lunchbox:  

  • Wholegrain bread for sandwiches 
  • Wholegrain bread roll or flat bread/wraps 
  • Cooked brown rice, pasta or quinoa  
  • Wholegrain crackers or rice crackers 

Step 2: Bulk with vegies. 

Adding vegetables and legumes is a great way to bulk up your child’s lunch box. They can help them feel fuller for longer throughout the school day, and boost their immune system especially in the cold, winter months! Offer a variety of different types and coloured vegetables, mix it up every day! Start by adding them into their sandwich or a serve of raw vegetables to snack on. 

Here are some ways to include vegetables in your child’s lunchbox: 

  • Raw salad vegetables  
  • Vegetable sticks such as carrot, snow peas, capsicum or celery  
  • Corn on the cob 
  • Dried or canned beans, peas or lentils, with no added salt  
  • Cherries tomatoes or sliced tomato in sandwiches  

Step 3: Include fruit as a snack. 

Fruit is an easy snack, that requires little to no effort to prepare. Like vegetables, fruit is full of fibre to help your child feel fuller for longer. Offer whole, fresh fruit where possible and mix it up with different types and coloured fruit.  

  • Apple, banana, orange, pear  
  • Apricots, plums or kiwi fruit  
  • Grape, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries 
  • Diced or canned fruit in natural juices 
  • Dried fruit and 100% fruit juice 

Step 4: Add some dairy or alternatives (with an ice block). 

Dairy foods can be tricky to include in school lunchboxes, as they often need to be kept refrigerated. But if you add an ice block and encourage your child to eat them in the morning, dairy foods (or alternatives) can be a great addition to the lunch box!  

Here are some ways you can include dairy into your child’s lunchbox:  

  • Reduced fat milk or milk alternative 
  • Reduced fat cheese or ricotta and crackers 
  • Reduced fat yoghurt  

Step 5: Don’t forget about protein! 

Kids are growing and need protein rich foods to build strong muscles.    

Here are some ways you can include protein into your child’s lunchbox:  

  • Add them as sandwich fillings – such as shredded roast chicken or turkey (with skin removed), shredded dry roasted tofu, grilled tempeh or other lean meats (such as beef, veel, lamb, pork, kangaroo or goat) 
  • Tin of tuna 
  • Boiled eggs 
  • Roasted chickpeas, or baked beans. 
  • A handful of mixed nuts and seeds (paired with dried fruit if your kid is a sweet tooth) 
  • Natural nut spreads, like 100% peanut butter on crackers  


Step 6: What about water? 

Don’t forget water! It’s the best drink for children to keep them hydrated throughout the day. Always pack a water bottle and encourage them to fill it up throughout the day. On hot days you may like to freeze half or all of their water bottle to keep it refreshing to drink. This will also keep the rest of the foods in their lunch box cool.  

Now, to get your kids to actually eat the foods you pack try: 

  • Taking your kids food shopping and getting them involved in prepping their lunch box. Allowing children to choose the healthy food they put in their healthy lunch box will mean they are more likely to eat them. This also is teaching them the skills to choose and prepare healthy meals which will lead them to make healthier choices into adulthood.  
  • Prepare food ahead of time. Do lunchbox prep the night before rather than in a rush in the morning. You can also try preparing snacks and meals in bulk on the weekend for the week ahead.  
  • Talk to your kids! Ask them what foods they would like to try. This can give you the opportunity to discuss the importance of healthy eating for healthy growth. 


But remember you provide, your child decides! If your child’s lunch box comes back with some foods eaten and others untouched, that’s okay! You’re giving them the opportunity to explore new foods and eat in tune with their appetite.