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What is a healthy lunch?

Are you tired of preparing the same old thing for lunch? We hear you! Finding inspiration is not always easy.  But here are some practical tips and tasty options that might tempt your little ones.

Watch: 4 quick and easy, healthy lunchboxes

Top tips

  • Get your child involved in choosing what they include in their lunches – offer a choice between two healthy options, such as sliced bread or a bagel. You don’t need to offer a choice on all items on the lunch menu, just one or two.
  • Include a wide variety of food types 
    • carbohydrate foods like bread or pasta,
    • protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs or pulses,
    • dairy foods – milk, cheese or yoghurt, and
    • plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Try to offer different foods every day - they may just want to stick with their favourites but encouraging them to eat a variety of foods is really important.
  • Cook extra meat, fish or eggs in the evening and you can use these for lunch the next day. Food can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days after it’s cooked.
  • Vary the types of bread,  e.g. pitta bread, bagels, wholemeal rolls, wraps - keep a stock in the freezer so you don’t run out.
  • Consider home-made soup. It is great for cold days - especially at weekends, while salads are light and refreshing for warmer weather.
  • Include a drink, as children need up to 6 cups of fluid daily. Milk and water are the best options.
  • Brightly coloured drinks bottles can make rehydrating more interesting!

Useful links

Common parental concerns

My child’s lunchbox comes home untouched

Talk to your child about why they didn't eat it – they may not like certain foods, or a friend might have given them something else. Getting them involved in making choices and preparing lunch can have a big impact on what they eat.

I don’t have time in the morning to make a healthy lunch

Prepare lunch the night before and store it in a container in the fridge ready to go in the morning.

My child doesn’t have enough time to eat all their lunch in school

The key here is preparation. Cut sandwiches into quarters. Provide bite sized snacks such as cherry tomatoes and grapes. Cut fruit and vegetables into small slices.

There is no fridge at school to keep their lunch

Invest in an insulated lunch bag or box that can keep food cool. A small ice pack can also be used or include a frozen bottle of water. Advise your child to keep their lunchbox away from radiators or direct sunlight. 

More lunchbox ideas

Tuna & sweetcorn pitta

What you will need:

* 75g tuna in brine
* 1 medium wholemeal pitta pocket
* Sweetcorn and lettuce to fill pitta

And don't forget to include a drink - a 500ml bottle of water is ideal

Pasta & veg with crackers, cheese and grapes

What you will need for the pasta: 

* 2 Table spoons of cooked pasta
* 1 tablespoon of tomatoes and peppers
Mix and pack in pot 

Add to the lunchbox

* A handful of grapes
* 2 crackers with 25g low fat cheese
* 125g of low fat yoghurt

Don't forget to include a 500ml bottle of water.

Wholemeal chicken salad sandwich with yogurt

What you will need for the sandwich:

* 50g chicken
* 2 thin slices of wholemeal bread
* Cucumber, lettuce and 4 slices of tomato

Then add to the lunchbox
* 125g low fat yogurt 

Don't forget to include a 500ml bottle of water.

Cheese and tomato sandwich lunchbox

What you will need for the sandwich:

  • 2 thin slices of wholemeal bread
  • 25g cheese
  • 1 tomato

Then add to the lunchbox

  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 handful of carrot sticks
  • 125g low fat yogurt

And don't forget to include a 500ml bottle of water.

© The Food Safety Promotion Board