The school lunchbox can quickly become overwhelming and exhausting, but it doesn't have to be! As a mum to three and family nutritionist, let's just say I've made a fair share of lunchboxes over the years. Here are my top tips for a healthy and balanced school lunchbox that kids actually want to eat.
Seasonal fruit and veggies make a quick, affordable and healthy snack for kids at school. Favourites include berries, grapes, apples, bananas, cherry tomatoes and sticks of cucumber and carrot. If kids aren't so keen on vegetables in the lunchbox this is OKAY! Make sure you're offering vegetables at other meals and include an extra serve of fruit at school if needed.
A little time spent in the kitchen each weekend will save you both time and money on busy school days. Choose 1-2 freezer-friendly baked goods to batch prepare, such as homemade muffins, pancakes and scrolls. Most baked goods can be added to the lunchbox straight from the freezer and will be defrosted by morning tea. You can find some of my go-to recipes for free on Instagram or in my healthy lunchbox recipe book.
You don’t have to do it all yourself. When choosing packaged food aim for items made with whole food ingredients you recognise. The general aim for snacks is to choose those with less than 120mg sodium per 100g and minimal added sugar where possible. A helpful tip is to remember that 4g of sugar is one teaspoon and we generally recommend that school aged children consume less than 4-6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. If you're not sure what sugar is worth the worry, check out this post.
Most schools are 'nut aware', meaning they ask that you leave products that contain nuts at home due to the risk nuts can pose to children with allergies. You can easily identify nuts by reviewing the ingredients label.
Think of the day as a whole. If a school snack contains a little more sodium or sugar than ideal or you're scrambling for time and throwing in whatever you can find, it's okay! Balanced is the goal, but fed is just as important. If you've packed a higher sugar or sodium snack for school or you've missed a nutrient or two, think of the day as a whole and consider adjusting other meals that day to bridge any gaps.
Most importantly, do your best. There is absolutely no need to create a pinterest-worthy lunchbox every single day. The most important thing is a child having access to a variety of food.
The fail-safe Her Nourished Kids guide to packing lunchboxes:
- 1-2 serves fruit
- 1-2 serves vegetables (or additional fruit)
- A dry/crunchy snack (such as crackers, dried beans or a homemade nut-free trail mix)
- A baked good (such as muffins, nut free bliss balls, waffles or pancakes)
- A main lunch option (ideally one that includes a source of protein and fat)
Shop my digital download PDF lunchbox planner HERE.