What should be in a healthy lunchbox?

Eating a healthy, balanced lunch is vital for ensuring children have the right nutrients and enough energy to see them through the school day, however, achieving this balance is not always as easy as it sounds. The key to a healthy packed lunch is variety and getting the right balance of foods to provide children with all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. A packed lunch made at home can be a healthy and delicious choice and gives a parent or carer control over the foods and ingredients included.

A school lunchbox should:


Be based on starchy foods


  • This can include potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, couscous, wraps, pitta and chapatti. Where possible wholegrain varieties should be chosen, e.g. wholemeal bread and leave skins on potatoes.

Include plenty of fruit and vegetables


  • Include 1-2 portions and vary these throughout the week.

  • You could add sliced vegetables into a pasta dish or sandwich.

  • You could also include packs of chopped fresh fruits or individual packs of dried fruits.

Include a portion of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, a dairy food and/or a non-dairy source of protein


  • Use beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other sources of protein as sandwich fillings or in a salad.

  • If you’re not including a dairy food in the main lunch item (e.g. in a salad or sandwich), add a yogurt or some cheese, such as a Cheddar stick, to the lunchbox.

  • If you’re including a dairy alternative, e.g. soya yogurt or milk, choose varieties which are unsweetened and fortified with calcium.

Include a drink


  • Healthy options include water, semi-skimmed or 1% milk.

  • You could also give your child fruit juice or smoothie – but remember, fruit juice and smoothies should be limited to a combined total of 150ml a day. You could always dilute fruit juice with still or sparkling water.

Breaktime Snacks


Snacks can be provided at playtimes to help maintain energy levels.
  • Whole or sliced fruit.
  • Vegetable sticks, e.g. celery, carrot, pepper, cucumber. Some vegetables are naturally baton shaped which can save you time preparing, for example, sugar snap peas and baby corn.


Making Healthy Lunchboxes:



For more information:

British Nutrition Foundation - https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/helpingyoueatwell/healthypackedlunches.html

Change for Life - https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/healthier-lunchboxes

School packed lunch menu inspiration - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/school-packed-lunch-inspiration