School Lunchbox Inspiration

As a parent you always want your children to eat wholesome and nutritious food. But going back to school can be hard to find the right balance of achieving this as well as ensuring they eat what you’ve provided in their lunchbox!

A balanced diet takes into consideration everything your child eats throughout the course of the day. Lunch is just one part of that!

But what foods should you include to build up a lunchbox?

Below is a food group guide to follow to help you include a range of wholesome and nutritious food across the various food groups.

Remember this is only a guide. Some days your pantry and fridge will be full after a new grocery shop, and other times your cupboard might be bare and you’re trying to include whatever you can find!

Include Something From Each Group

Lots of vegetables (non-starchy) and fruit. This can be fresh, frozen or cooked. Remember to pick a range of colours to maximise vitamins and minerals intake!

Starchy vegetables, and wholegrain foods- for energy and fibre- bread, wraps, quinoa, brown rice, oats, rice cakes/corn thins, pasta, kumara, potato or corn.

Meat & Meat Alternatives- such as tofu, chickpeas, beans, lentils, hummus etc), fish, seafood, eggs, chicken or lean meat- This is important for protein which helps to support your child’s growth and development. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardine and tuna, also provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids to support brain development.

Dairy- milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives- for protein and calcium which support young people to build strong bones. This can include cheese, plain milk or milk alternative if dairy free used in a homemade smoothie and a pottle of yoghurt/dairyfree yoghurt. 

Healthy fats, nuts and seeds. This can include things like avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters, nut and seed mixes or homemade salad dressings using olive oil as a base to go in a salad or sandwich/wrap. Remember to take note of your child’s school or early childhood centre’s nut policy!

Water! It's so important to teach your kids to keep well hydrated, especially in the warmer months. 

Using a 'bento box' style lunchbox with compartments is a great way to be mindful about the different food groups to include. There are many different types and brands available on the market and they range in price. For example, $10 for this Sistema one which you can find at your local supermarket or The Warehouse, to stainless steel style ones like these ones from Planet Box which are more expensive. The bonus here is you will reduce your plastic wrap too which is a win for the environment too! 

NZ Nutrition Foundation

Time Saving Tips

There is nothing better than feeling in control and being prepared in advance to take the stress out of school lunches! Here are some time saving tools to help you:

  • Make two or three lunchboxes in advance and keep them in the fridge.

  • Cook a little extra dinner and use the leftovers for the main part of the lunchbox. Leftover meat can be eaten as is or chopped up to make sushi, sandwiches or wraps.

  • Roast vegetables at the start of the week and keep in the fridge to fill the starchy vege portion

  • Cook up some hard boil eggs in advance while cooking dinner. This will give you an easy source of protein to include.

  • Have a bulk baking day once a week/month and freeze. Savoury quiches, muffins and bliss balls freeze well. 

  • In your supermarket trolley include items that are quick, healthy and easy and require no preparation e.g cherry tomatoes, grapes and other small fruits to suit small hands, and cheese.

  • Try a 'no cook lunchbox'- create a lunchbox based around leftover meat, fruit, raw veges, dairy (or dairy free options) and healthy fats such as nuts and seeds.


Lunchbox ideas

To help get you started, here are some simple lunch and snack ideas for the lunchbox:

  • Leftovers! - The philosophy of cook once eat twice goes a long way!

  • Hard boiled eggs

  • Zucchini Slice

  • Vegetable fritters

  • Corn on the cob

  • Fresh fruit

  • Fruit kebabs

  • Edamame beans

  • Snow peas

  • Beans

  • Cherry tomatoes

  • Sandwiches, wraps, pita pockets or rolls using wholegrain bread filled with salad, legumes, chicken, fish, egg, lean meat or cheese.

  • Rice Cakes topped with hummus, cheese, vegemite, avocado, tomato, salmon (not altogether of course!)

  • Mini pizzas

  • Falafel

  • Rice paper rolls filled with lots of vegetables 

  • Corn Chips and Guacamole- you can also make chips out of pita bread too!

  • Slices of cheese

  • Yoghurt- make sure you choose varieties with the least amount of sugar

  • Stuffed baked potato or kumara

  • Cold quinoa, pasta, noodle or couscous using lots of seasonal vegetables

  • Sushi. You can make this with white rice, brown rice or quinoa! Filled with vege and salmon or meat

  • Homemade smoothie

  • Mini muffins

  • Vegetable sticks (carrots, capsicum, cucumber etc), served with hummus or cottage cheese

  • Popcorn

  • Mixed nuts (depending on school's nut policy)

  • Bliss Balls

Feast your eyes on these pics and be inspired!

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