Holidays are done, and along with making sure uniforms still fit and all the back-to-school supplies have been bought, many of us are turning our minds to what to pack in our kids’ lunch boxes.

Packing a healthy lunch box gives kids the nutrients they need for healthy development and sustained energy for optimal concentration levels and effective learning. Ultimately we’d all like to pack a healthy lunch box full of nutritious foods that are willingly eaten- but this can be challenging for some families.

With five kids I’ve packed a fair few lunch boxes in my time- here are my top tips to ensure that the healthy lunch box you prepare in the morning returns to you empty at the end of the day:

1. Involve your kids in packing their lunch boxes – this not only provides a sense of independence, but they are also more likely to eat something they have packed themselves.

2. If finances allow, let your kids choose their own lunchbox and drink bottle – My youngest starts pre-school this year and is very excited to take her new Paw Patrol lunchbox with her!

3. Make sure you pack a drink – water is the best choice to quench their thirst.

4. On hot days, make sure you pack a ice-pack to keep food cool – especially important if you have included yoghurt or sandwich fillings such as meat or cheese (as well as food safety considerations, a warm sandwich isn’t really appealing!) A water bottle half filled with ice and topped up with water can double-up as an ice pack and drink.

5. Don’t compare your child’s lunch box to the beautiful but often unrealistic examples you may see on Pinterest or Instagram – if your child enjoys quinoa salads and chia balls that’s great, but always ask yourself “Will my child actually eat this?” before you put it in.

6. Of course, it’s always good to give kids the opportunity to try new foods – ensure you also include enough familiar and liked foods along with new foods so they don’t go hungry if they aren’t ready to try the new food just yet.

7. Don’t be too concerned if your child doesn’t eat everything – kids appetites vary from day to day and sometimes they won’t feel like eating much with all the excitement that school brings. Just give them a bigger afternoon tea if they are hungrier at that time.

8. Use the five food groups as your guide to provide a balanced lunch box – choosing something from each group will provide the variety of nutrients your child needs for healthy development. A little treat every now and then is fine in the context of a balanced diet but prioritise foods from the five food groups to ensure their developmental needs are met.

Examples include:

  • Fruits- tub of grapes, apple, mandarins, tub of berries
  • Vegetables- carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, plain popcorn, cucumber sticks, salad in sandwich or in a tub
  • Whole-grain bread or wraps, crackers, mini pikelets
  • Dairy/dairy alternatives- cheese on sandwich, cheese sticks, cheese and crackers, yoghurt
  • Meat/meat alternatives- tin of tuna, ham or chicken on sandwich, boiled eggs, hummus

And remember that the best packed lunch box is the one that will be empty at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s really as simple as a ham and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, an apple, a cheese stick and some carrot sticks!

What is your go-to healthy lunch box food for your kids during the back to school season?! Let us know your favourites in the comments below!

  • Getting your children to help pack their own lunch is the best tip of all – then they will eat what they have taken to school!

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  • Asking them to help worked for us

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  • Great list of ideas as long as there is fruit my daughters happy

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  • I tried everything to give my children a healthy lunch box but most of the food either came back or they threw it in the rubbish before they got home. In the end we compromised and put in what was healthy (and they said they agreed) and they could put in something they really wanted. It was the only way to get them to eat while at school.

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  • I tried all of these. Pack your own was a disaster! Never saw so much rubbish in the one lunchbox when they packed themselves. I can’t remember a single day where a lunchbox came home empty because my kids ate the entire contents them selves!

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  • Totally agree that the best lunchbox is one that comes home empty at the end of the day. Often smaller kids want something quick like a sandwich so they can have more time to play.

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  • I make up lunches in the morning. But the first thing I do is pop the yoghurt and fruit in the freezer until it’s time to leave! It gets nice and chilled without freezing, so it’s still cool at recess. It also helps keep the ice packs from getting too warm too quickly so they still gave some efficiency at lunch time!

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  • Fantastic ideas, now to just get the kids to eat it all haha

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  • We freeze drink bottles to use as an ice block and a cool drink

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  • My kids got some bento type boxes and have been enjoying filling them with all sorts of things.

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  • Kids seem to like things that will keep them going but that are quite easy and quick to eat as they want to get out and play.

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  • My kids always take the something from the above, They love carrot sticks especially!

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  • These are some great ideas, love involving the kids in choosing foods and drink bottles and lunch boxes etc

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  • It’s come a long way since I was at school. I wish I had more options like this back then

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  • “Will my child actually eat this?” , most important tip of all.

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