It is important to include a variety of food in your child’s lunch box each day. These should include fruit and veg, dairy, meat (or meat alternative) and grains.
Use fresh fruit if possible, using canned fruit in natural juice as a good alternative. Dried fruit can be included only occasionally, as it may cause dental problems due to high sugar content and can stick to teeth. Vegies in the lunch box are colourful and crunchy. They are great with dips or may be used grilled in rolls or sandwiches.
Children need dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese for optimal growth and development. UHT milk is a handy alternative to regular milk when it is unable to be kept cold. If your child cannot tolerate dairy foods, use alternatives like calcium-fortified soy or rice drink, or soy yoghurt. One serve of dairy is 250ml of milk, 200g of yoghurt (one small tub) or 40g of cheese (two slices).
Dairy ideas for the lunch box include:
cheese slices, cubes or sticks
yoghurt – natural or fruit. Try freezing a tub of yoghurt and putting it in the lunch box. By lunchtime, it will have partially thawed and be ready to eat. Remember to include a spoon.
milk – either cow’s milk or calcium-enriched legume/bean/cereal milk products. In the summer, try freezing milk overnight and wrap in a cloth for the lunch box to minimise the sweating. By lunchtime, it will be ready to drink.
Include a food that is high in protein, such as some lean meat or poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes/beans, or nuts and seeds. If your school has a nut-free policy, peanut butter and other nuts should not be included in your child’s lunch box.
Some foods to choose from for your sandwich or snack include:
sliced nut loaf, or tuna and olive loaf
hard boiled eggs, curried eggs or mashed egg dip in a sandwich. For a fun treat, try ‘googy faces’ – shell hard boiled eggs, wrap in cling wrap and draw smiley faces on the cling wrap with a marker
falafel balls and lentil patties are an easy, handy snack and can be used in pita bread and flatbread rolls
hummus or other bean dip
smoked salmon or trout, or sliced cold lean meats such as ham, turkey, chicken, silverside, roast beef or lamb, cold sliced meatloaf or meatballs. These can be added to sandwiches or used as a snack. Tuna or salmon in spring water – try small cans of flavoured fish
baked beans, bean mixes (choose low salt where available) and bean salad
fish cakes, tuna patties or salmon patties make a delicious and filling snack for afternoon tea
muffins with lean meat such as ham and zucchini
If you’ve made a dish with meat or meat alternatives for dinner the night before (like beef casserole, lentil dhal or vegetable frittata), keep the leftovers in the fridge and use some for lunch boxes the next day.
To keep sandwiches interesting, try a variety of bread and fillings:
sliced bread or rolls (wholemeal, multigrain, rye, sourdough, pumpernickel, pita, flat, corn, mountain, lavash, white fibre-enriched, soy and linseed, herb)
mountain/lavash breads – try what, corn, rice or barley
fruit loaf or buns.
Other grain based meals excellent for school lunches are:
rice or pasta dishes, including salads (for example, rice salad with salmon, snow peas and asparagus, or tuna pasta salad with yoghurt poppy seed dressing)
rice dishes, such as rice paper rolls, fried rice (with port, chicken or seafood), vegetarian fried rice with egg (add tofu for some extra protein) or brown rice and vegetable bake
For a convenient tasty snack try:
scones, pikelets, crumpets and English muffins (choose wholemeal where available)
crackers, crispbreads, rice cakes and corn thins (choose wholemeal or wholegrain where available).
Lunch box drinks
Water is the best drink for children and should be packed with the school lunch box every day. A drink bottle filled with water that children can refill throughout the day is an excellent way to keep kids hydrated. On a warm day frozen water bottles can help keep lunches chilled and also provide a refreshing drink.
Plain milk and UHT milk are great drink options for school lunches. Use UHT when plain milk is unable to be kept refrigerated.
Sugar sweetened drinks are not suitable and should be avoided. These include soft drinks, cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, flavoured waters, mineral waters and ice teas, energy drinks and sports drinks.
Artificially sweetened drinks do not add sugar to the diet however, they encourage kids to drink sweet drinks. Some artificially sweetened drinks like diet soft drinks are also acidic and can result in dental health problems.
Flavoured milks and fruit juices also add sugar to children’s diets and should only be provided sometimes.
Disclaimer: This website is not supervised by general practitioners and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Please contact our surgery if you are in need of medical attention or 000 if the matter is urgent