Practical Lunchbox Ideas

brown bag

The first and most basic of healthy lunchbox ideas is that your child's lunch must contain food that is already familiar to them. Familiarity is safety for children and, above all, they need whatever is in their lunchbox to be familiar. They will not be amenable to adventurous culinary surprises that they have never tasted before. So, always try out your creative healthy lunchbox ideas a few times at home first!

If you want your children to eat healthy lunches, your family eating habits will have to reflect that. Giving them raw vegetables with a hummus dip for school, when they never see a fresh vegetable at home, will not work. However, because it is easy to extract healthy lunchbox ideas from what was cooked for the previous night's dinner, it may not be as difficult as you think, for your children to eat nourishing, nutritious food, both at the family dinner table and from their lunchboxes.

Lunchbox Ideas --- Healthy Guidelines

A child's lunchbox should make up a complete meal. When devising your own healthy lunchbox ideas, be sure to include foods from each food group from the food pyramid. For a balanced meal, you need:

GRAIN (bread, wrap, bagel, cereal, pasta etc.)

PROTEIN (meat, cheese, fish, tofu, pulses etc.)


Government health-promotion agencies also tend to recommend including dairy. However, this is for the calcium content of dairy, which can easily be got from other foods, if you are not too keen on dairy.

As well as your child's main lunch, also include a mid-morning snack, a healthy dessert and two healthy drinks, at least one of which should be water.

the food pyramid

Success with Healthy Lunchbox Ideas

***Theory is all very well, but when it comes to putting healthy lunchbox ideas into practice, be sensitive to the challenges your children face at school. They have to endure the comments their classmates may pass on their food. So, even if you have convinced your children to eat something at home, they may not want to bring it to school. They know what they need to do to preserve their social status as cool people, and lunchbox-makers should respect that!

***Children are often tempted away from your best healthy lunchbox ideas if your school has other, less healthy options, on sale. If your child’s school has a vending machine or cafeteria that stocks fizzy drinks, crisps, sweets, chocolate and unhealthy snacks, SHAME ON THEM! Write a letter to the principal and complain. If schools were funded properly, they would not have to subsidise their running costs by selling these things.

***For some children, the most successful lunchboxes are those that require no cutlery to eat them, no equipment, and not a lot of heavy chewing. They regard lunch the way you would regard the opening of an art exhibition. A chance to socialise and gossip while having some nibbles and a drink. Finger-food of course darling!

***If your healthy lunchbox ideas are failing and those little tubs are coming home full, or you suspect your kids are doing a lot of swapping, or tipping in the school bin, make up a questionnaire for them to fill out, telling you what they liked and disliked and pop it in their lunchbox. Customer feedback is very important!

***Freeze your child’s cold drink and take it out the morning you need it. It will thaw during the day and be nice and chilled when your child goes to drink it. It will also help keep everything else cool. Even water is more delicious when chilled.

***Sogginess is the mortal sin of lunchbox preparation as far as your child is concerned. To be a Lunchbox Angel, you must never commit this heinous sin! If the children in your child’s class tend to swap and share lunches, it’s a good idea to pack something especially for that purpose, a good way for your child to develop social skills and learn about sharing and inclusivity.

Gear up for your lunchbox ideas!

*** Gear up well for your healthy luncbox ideas! Having the right array of containers will liberate you! It means you can send whatever type of food your child enjoys, not just sandwiches, day in day out. Have lots of different lunch tubs to hand, suitable for different types of meals. An ordinary rectangular tub is fine for a sandwich, but for a salad and dip you need something with lots of different compartments. When you have the right gear to send it in, you will be more inclined to make different things for your child to eat.

***Keep all your lunch-packing gear in one place, so that in the morning, when implementing your healthy lunchbox ideas, you don’t have to mess around looking for stuff. Try packing condiments and sauces in double, small, zip–lock bags. Just remember to ask your child to seal them again when they are finished.

***Make sure your child likes the look of her lunchbox and drink container. Nothing about the lunchbox should be embarrassing to your child, as it will put her off eating. Respect your child’s social cachet!

***Use coloured food wrap if you can buy it.

***If your healthy lunchbox ideas include hot winter food, get a shallow, wide-brimmed thermos for hot-pot meals and casseroles. Remember to send a spoon.

***Have zip-lock bags handy for sending in things you want to keep separate, like croutons, or roasted nuts, for your child to sprinkle over a meal.

***Younger children may enjoy a funny face on their fruit, a fresh edible flower, a smiley face, a note from mum on a post-it, or a photo of their pet. If they are getting some ethnic cuisine for lunch, put in a picture clue of something from that country, so they can try and guess what country it is before they unwrap the food. I used to save Christmas cracker jokes for my daughter’s lunchbox. However, a word of warning, these novelties only work up to a certain age. After that, you’ll be told they’re naff!

***There is something hideous about using plastic cutlery, whether you are a child, or an adult, and I always think it’s better to send proper, colourful child-cutlery in a lunchbox. Yes, some of it will go by the wayside, but it still works out cheaper than replacing the plastic stuff every day and is more environmentally sound. And finally, always include a napkin!

Lunchbox Gear Checklist

  • Tubs for all possible lunchbox ideas---tiny condiment tubs, small fruit salad tubs, larger pasta salad tubs, rectangular sandwich tubs, tubs with many little compartments for different salads and dips.

  • Proper cutlery in bright child-friendly designs

  • Kitchen towels/napkins

  • Cold drinks bottles suitable for freezing overnight

  • Hot drinks flask

  • Shallow wide-brimmed flask for hot-pot meals

  • Thermos insulator or tea-towel to wrap around it

  • Lunchbox with in-built vacuum compartment

  • Outer insulated lunchbox bag

  • Ice-pack

  • Straws

  • Lollipop sticks, cocktail sticks, skewers, umbrellas

  • Tin-foil

  • Cling film, coloured food wrap

  • Sandwich bags, zip lock bags

  • Sandwich paper wrap, sheets of greaseproof paper

  • Fruit containers

  • Novelty stickers, jokes, post-it pad for notes from mum etc.

Delicious and nutritious healthy lunchbox ideas.

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Remember, healthy eating is enjoyable!

Blessings on your table!

The Good Food Angel.


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