Back to School: Healthy Lunchbox Ideas for the New Term

With the new school term on the horizon, parents across the UK are once again faced with the challenge of coming up with new, healthy, yet tasty packed lunch ideas for their children’s return to the classroom.

It’s important to provide a balanced school lunch for your child – which is easier said than done when faced with daily demands for chocolate or crisps. However, the NHS website recommends that one of each of the following food groups are included in a well-balanced lunchbox:

  •       A starchy food, such as pasta or bread
  •       Protein-based foods, like meat, beans or fish
  •       Dairy items, such as yoghurt or cheese
  •       Veggies, salad and a piece of fruit

If you are looking for inspiration that goes beyond a cheese sandwich, but don’t have the time to prepare a gourmet-style lunch-box every weekday, then we have gathered together some wholesome and nutritious ideas that will make your child’s lunch extra enjoyable.

Say goodbye to soggy sandwiches

There are plenty of options for a carb-based lunch that is far more exciting than a boring sandwich – and will leave your little one feeling fueled up and ready to concentrate throughout the afternoon’s lessons.

Pasta salad is always a hit with kids and takes no time to prepare. If you are having pasta for a family dinner, simply cook a little extra and let it cool before perking it up with a range of delicious ingredients.  A firm favourite in our household is Pesto Pasta Salad – simply stir a mixture of pesto, mayo, and Greek yoghurt through the cold pasta and customise with your child’s favourite protein. This dish works well with cooked chicken, ham or a handful of grated cheese sprinkled over the top.

With a distinctive Autumn nip starting to appear in the air, a hearty soup kept piping hot in a Thermos flask provides a ‘soup-er’ lunchtime treat. Chicken soup is classic comfort food on a chilly school day, and this easy recipe allows you to use up any leftover chicken from the Sunday roast. The best part of this warming lunch is that it contains hidden veggies blended into the soup to help kids on their way to achieving the recommended five-a-day portions of fruit and veg.

Wraps also make a tasty alternative to sandwiches, and the ingredients can be kept simple but with added twists to give kids a boost of nutrition. For instance, a simple ham and cheese wrap can be perked up with the addition of grated carrot and mayo. Salami, tomato, and mozzarella can be served up as a ‘pizza wrap’ which will get children excited about having a pizza-style treat in their packed lunch.

Clear out the crisps and cakes

We’ve all been guilty of throwing a packet of crisps in our child’s lunchbox on one of those mornings where we are running late, but with a little preparation the night before, there are some healthier alternatives to fat-laden crisps, cakes and chocolate biscuits.

Try slicing some carrots thinly into elongated ovals and tossing in a little oil and salt before baking for crunchy crisps, with a little sweetness that will appeal to children’s taste buds. For older children add cumin as well for a spicy kick to the carroty-treat.

Potato peelings also make delicious crisps and helps to eliminate food waste by using potato skins that would otherwise end up in the bin or on the compost heap.

If your child has a sweet tooth and craves chocolate in their packed lunch, try this healthy alternative that has just enough chocolate to still feel like a sweet treat: Simply place unsweetened popcorn onto a  tray and drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top. Leave in the fridge to harden and it’s ready for the lunch box. We suggest popping the popcorn into a paper bag to make it feel more like a bag of sweets.

Oaty apple muffins are a great lunchbox switch to replace sugar-laden cake. They are packed with healthy pumpkin and chia seeds – and the addition of apple pie filling into the mixture gives a sweet, moist flavour to the muffins. Get the kids involved with making a batch of them, as the muffins can be frozen and popped into a packed lunch in the morning to defrost ready for lunchtime.  Easy, fast, and healthy!

Five-a-day favourites

Getting youngsters to eat the recommended five portions of fruit, salad, and vegetables each day can be challenging for parents. But there are plenty of sneaky ways to boost their intake without them realising.

Stuffed pitta bread is easy to hold in little hands and a simple chicken, lettuce, and mayo filling will please even the fussiest of eaters – and give them some greenery in their lunch too.  For added flavour, chop up a few dried apricots and mix with Greek yogurt and swap this for the mayonnaise.

Savoury muffins are as delicious as sweet ones as this recipe for cheesy courgette muffin proves. The courgette is grated finely into the mixture so that little ones get a secret veggie boost. This recipe works really well using sweetcorn or peas instead of courgette too.

Breaktime snacks

Many schools allow their students to have a healthy snack at breaktimes, so it’s always wise to add a piece of fruit to their packed lunch box.  Bananas, apples, and pears are always a good choice, as are dried fruits such as raisins or apricot.

Nuts and seeds are also quick wins for a nutritious snack. A handful of almonds or selenium-rich brazil nuts are perfect – although be advised that many schools ask parents to steer clear from peanuts in case any pupils have an allergy.

With these ideas, you’ll be able to keep your child’s lunchbox varied, exciting, and healthy as they return for the September term.