What to Pack in a School Lunchbox

Back to School Lunches
by APD and Provisional Sports Dietitian Simone Bourner

Kids heading back to school have you stressing over what to pack for lunch? Here's our tips:

A good guide when packing a lunchbox is to think about the 5 food groups: bread/cereals, fruit, vegetables/salad, dairy or alternative, meat or alternative. A mix of these will provide nutrients and nourishment for a busy day of listening, concentrating and playing at school.

Then break it down into four components:

  • A main item, such as a sandwich/wrap/roll, pasta with vegetables, soup, frittata or sushi.
  • A fruit or vegetable snack, such as whole fruit, cut up veggie sticks, canned fruit in natural juice, a small salad. Go for fruit in season to help reduce costs.
  • 1-2 snacks based on other food groups, such as yoghurt, grainy crackers with cheese, plain popcorn, a slice of raisin bread, a wholemeal fruit muffin, a boiled egg, or a can of tuna, seeds or a bar/slice made with fruit & seeds
  • And a drink. A bottle of tap water is best, and plain milk is also nutritious.
Don't forget to always send a cold or frozen drink bottle with water or a frozen cold pack to keep lunch fresh and safe, especially in summer.

It is best to limit foods high in sugar, salt and fat such as soft drinks, chocolates, chips, juices, cordials and processed treats like roll ups or  biscuits. Remember, you provide-they decide. If children are hungry, they will eat what is provided. If unhealthy choices are available, often these are eaten first and the other items come home untouched!

Parents and carers are a significant role model for their children and healthy behaviours, so parents may like to have the conversation about everyday vs. sometimes foods. Ultimately parents are also in control of providing foods for school and setting family guidelines around healthy eating and frequency of tuckshop purchases.

The best choice at the tuckshop depends on how regularly it is being ordered. It is suitable to choose one day each week or fortnight where the child may select their favourite foods (or you are too busy to make lunch!). If tuckshop becomes more regular, aim to avoid fried or creamy options (e.g. pies, creamy pastas) and go for items with salads or vegetables such as a sandwich, wrap, burger or roll.  Some tuckshops sell meal items such as rice dishes, pastas or sushi, which are also great choices. In terms of fluids, avoid soft drinks and juices instead opting for milk or water.

We appreciate that it does take time and organisation to send a healthy lunch box to school so in order to have it happening more regularly than not:

  • Follow our checklist above to ensure the lunchbox contains a main item etc
  • Write a shopping list for the week and buy fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and yoghurt, bread and crackers in advance.
  • Prepare snacks or meals in advance on the weekend.
  • Pack lunch or having it ready to go in the fridge the night before.
  • Enlist the help of the children to save time if they are old enough.
  • Involve children in shopping and let them help choose fruits and vegetables for their lunchbox to get them interested.

Chat to your Eat Smart Dietitian for further help for your busy family

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.