+ Healthy Lunchbox ideas - how to pack a nutritious lunch for your kids

Healthy lunchbox ideas – How I pack a nourishing school lunch

Today, I thought I’d share with you how I plan and pack my kids school lunches and some of the ways I put together healthy, interesting creations, quickly and easily.  Plus I’ve included some troubleshooting for fusspots!

Variety is the spice of life!
My kids get really bored if I feed them the same thing over and over again.  I made this mistake with my toasted muesli.  It was served up too many times when they were little and now they complain when I serve it up at breakfast time.

Variety in their lunchbox not only keeps them interested, it also ensures they are deriving as many different nutrients, from as many different sources as possible.  Feeding them the same things over and over really limits their potential to be truly nourished.  Just remember – anything goes, don’t be constrained by fruit and a plain sandwich, hopefully this post will inspire you with more ideas.

A well-designed lunch box helps…
A lunch box that can be easily opened is a must.  Also, one with lots of compartments so you can pack lots of ‘nude food’ and they can see what’s on offer in one spot is handy.  When my kids were little I had their lunch in two separate boxes, mainly because I wanted them to eat the fruit and certain veges first (before they went sloppy).  Now they are old enough to know what’s best to eat first so they pick and choose the order themselves.  I think it’s nice for them to have control over what order they eat from their lunch box, but pick what suits your kids best.

Ice bricks and an insulated bag are essential for keeping their food fresh and safe.  The hotter it is the more ice bricks you will need to pack.  There is no reason to compromise on nourishment just because the weather is hot!

Make it easy on yourself
Forget making special fancy meals specifically for the lunch box and try to work with leftovers reinvented.  This is why I share my kids lunches on social media (Instagram and Facebook group), as I’m pretty efficient at creating something new from a past meal.  It’s why I also add in tips for lunches/ leftovers at the end of many of my recipes.  I just don’t have time to spend more than 5-10 minutes on school lunches daily.

Sometimes, this may involve a little forethought…
I often spare a thought for school lunches when preparing my evening meal.  For example…

  • Roast dinners – If I’m cooking a roast dinner, I’ll add in extra protein like a few drumsticks as well as the whole chook.  Or I’ll cook a ‘large’ side of meat or chicken so there will be leftovers (though sometimes this involves fending off my husband from seconds)!  Even if I’m just baking some veggies for dinner, I’ll cook extra for the lunchbox (my kids love roast veg cold) and I’ll often throw an extra piece of meat on the tray for the lunch box.  Add the meat to a sandwich as this is so much better than relying on processed, nitrate laden deli meats.  You could also fill fresh spring rolls, sushi rolls, add a drumstick or wing into the box or add shredded or chopped meat to a salad, grain or noodles.  Cooked meat can also be frozen (in portions) to use when required.
  • Same with casseroles and curries – throw in more protein than what you need for dinner, fish it out of the sauce and use it as above.  For example curried chicken pieces are delicious in a sandwich, wrap or spring roll.  I also pack my kids curry and rice for lunch – either cold or warmed up in a thermos in winter.
  • Whilst steaming vegetables for dinner, throw a few eggs in the water to boil for school lunches the next day.  My kids love curried egg sandwiches or just boiled egg and salad, although the smell can be a little off putting.  Character building I say!!
  • I make a batch of meatballs for dinner, some of which I roll into bite sized balls and bake or grill for lunch.  Also as a sandwich/wrap or rice paper roll filler, or with salad.  These are a hit with many kids.
  • If cooking rice, quinoa or noodles, cook a little extra and mix through tuna and grated veggies for lunch the next day.
  • A good backstop is egg, tuna or salmon – I usually mix with homemade mayo, quark, labne or natural yoghurt to bind them for a sandwich filling.
  • Also, if I’m cooking a frittata, quiche or omelette, I’ll make an extra large one or double up for the next day’s lunch box.  It can also be frozen.

Nutritionally balanced box
So how do you make it nutritionally balanced?  My key rules are:

1.  A little fruit – two small serves (maximum).

2.  Always include protein – this is what fills them up and provides them with the fuel they need to be able to concentrate and focus (and run and play).  Most lunch boxes are lacking here.  For more about the importance of protein and how to get it, click here.

3. Add some vegetables/salad.   I understand that my kids are very accepting of vegetables, but not all kids are.  If there are any veggies they like, please include them.  If this is a sticking point, then do your best and please never give up (especially during your evening meal when you can encourage them to try new foods).  I always say you’d never give up on teaching your kids to read or write, yet when it comes to the food that nourishes them, many parents are willing to compromise.  I’ve already written extensively on developing healthy eating habits in kids and will continue to do so (catch up here on past posts).  I have worked with many fussy children in my many years of clinical practice, none of which were hopeless cases!  Persistence and lots of encouragement, please.

4.  Don’t buy anything but ‘real’ bread.  I’ve written about how to choose a nourishing bread that won’t be detrimental to your kids heath here.  Many types of breads are just awful so it’s worth picking a good one if you plan to include sandwiches.

4.  Dips are good for some veggie fussy kids.  Try pesto, hummus or even a little natural yogurt with tahini and sea salt mixed in.  Throw in a few crackers too.

5.  Only include low sugar, whole food  treats.  I have lots of recipes on my site for wholesome snacks.  You can check them out here.  I makeup batches and freeze in airtight containers.  I pack them frozen and they are ready to eat come morning tea.

Other ideas include:

  • Full fat natural or greek yogurt, berries, seeds.  Why not a flavoured yoghurt?  Read this post here.
  • My fruit whip –  freeze in little containers and don’t forget to pack a spoon.
  • Cheese and crackers or try my amazingly delicious seeded cheese crackers.
  • This no bake muesli slice is so quick and easy to make.  Cut and freeze in portions, perfect alternative to nutritionally void store bought muesli bars.  Why it’s best to avoid shop bought bars here.
  • Homemade popcorn (though I admit I have some little bags of organic popcorn as backup)
  • This Fruity Muesli Slice recipe has been so popular.

Busy kids
Some kids at school are just too busy to sit and eat a fiddly meal.  If this is the case, firstly make sure the book ends of their daily nourishment, that is breakfast and the afternoon snack, are good wholesome meals.  Then pack an appropriate lunch.  Ask them what they find quick and easy to eat and pack that.

A note about nuts…
I know most schools have a ‘nut free’ policy.  That’s why I always use breakfast or after school as a time to include nuts or a nut based treat (provided your children are not allergic of course).  My ebook the Well Nourished Lunchbox is bible of all things lunchbox and only contains 100% nut-free recipes.

Do you find this type of post helpful?  Any more ideas you’d like to add for healthy school lunches?  Love for you to post a comment below or share this post with a friend.

If you need help to remove the stress from packing the kids school lunches,  ‘The Well Nourished Lunchbox’ ebook has everything you need to guide and inspire you (no matter the age of your kids).  Find out more HERE.

All of the content here at Well Nourished is FREE to assist you to be the healthiest you can be.  But you can help me to build a healthier world, please  Share this post with a friend Share this post with a friend.

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  • Georgia

    Thank you so much for this post Georgia – beautiful name, haha!

    I especially love this line, ‘I always say you’d never give up on teaching your kids to read or write, yet when it comes to the food that nourishes them, many parents are willing to compromise.’
    That’s something I’ve always tried to find the words for, and you did so beautifully!

    • Thanks Georgia, I’m glad I come up with that analogy too. I just believe persistence is SO important, we can’t give up on our kids. G x

    • Thanks Georgia, I’m glad I come up with that analogy too. I just believe persistence is SO important, we can’t give up on our kids. G x

  • Diana

    Hi Georgia, great post! Just wondering where you get the lunch boxes that are in the pic? xx

  • The Wholefood Mama

    Brilliant post Georgia! I am adding it to my Friday list on my blog and will share on facebook. I agree dips are great for kids who aren’t keen on veggies, I steam carrots and add them to my hummus when I blend it up and last week I put in a whole raw zucchini in place of the carrots the kids loved it and were none the wiser about the zucchini being in there. I agree wholeheartedly never give up! If we expect our kids to eat well and present real food to them time after time they will grow to love it. Thanks again x

  • Caroline

    I do find it difficult to get inspiration to feed a 15, 13, 11 and 8 yr old, especially when the primary school is nut and egg free. You’ve given more great ideas for the dreaded lunch box. I HATE making school lunches!

  • Hannah

    Thanks Georgia, another really encouraging post.

  • bec

    Loved your post!

  • Bec

    Hi Georgia, I came across your site while searching for new kids lunchbox ideas, what a great post! I particularly love the look of the PlanetBox and have wanted something like that for my kids for ages. However, looking closely at some other PlanetBox pictures online, it seems like the containers are quite small. Do you have any issue with fitting enough food in them? I was looking at the Rover I think. Many thanks again for all the healthy meals inspiration!

    • Hi Bec. I’m told repeatedly that my kids eat heaps of food (after sleep overs etc). Probably the most common comment I receive (after very healthy) is ‘do your kids actually eat all that’. If I pack it for myself, I find it more than enough food for a day (and most people say I eat a lot).
      It is restrictive as it is a bento style so you are restricted to set segments/shapes. Really high or fat sandwiches, I need to squash in.
      Look I love it and I haven’t found a lunchbox that is as big (I have the Rover), but I have had people write and say they don’t find it big enough. Sorry, I can’t definitely say it will be big enough – do you know someone who has one that you can have a look over? Good luck, G x

    • Roz James

      I had this dilemma going back and decided on a Lunchbots box with 5 compartments. It’s not liquid tight, but I really like it and it fits all standard lunch cooler bags.

  • Claire

    I love your lunch box ideas, so inspiring. Thank you!

  • Zane

    I am adding veggies ALL the time in my daughters lunch box and it comes back untouched. I won’t give up though – one day I know it will come back empty 🙂

  • Good on you Zane. Perhaps get her to choose and pack them herself or even add in a dip – most kids are more likely to eat veggies they have packed them themselves G x

  • Kate Pearson

    I see in the photo of the lunch box there is a savoury scroll? I’ve searched your entire site, I think, but can’t find a recipe. Is there one on here for them? I’d love one. My kids get easily bored with sandwiches, wraps, rice paper rolls etc and a scroll would spice it up a little.

  • Hi Kate, this recipe is one from my ebook – I have a 10% off back to school offer at the moment with the code NEWYEAR – find out more here http://wellnourished.com.au/a-well-nourished-lunchbox-ebook/ G x

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