How to build a nutritious school lunch for your child

Here is a really simply way to create a balanced and tasty lunch box.
Here is a really simply way to create a balanced and tasty lunch box. Photo: Getty Images

Packing your kids a nutritious lunch isn't always easy – but it doesn't have to be difficult.

Sharon Natoli, accredited practicing dietician from Food & Nutrition Australia and member of the Egg Nutrition Council says a common mistake parents make is filling their child's lunch box with too many packaged foods.

"These are designed to be convenient but are high in sugar, low in fibre and low in nutritional value," said Natoli.

"Time is of the essence on a school day morning so finding quick and easy ways to pack the lunch box with nutritious foods is important so parents don't fall into this trap. A bit of planning and pre-preparation the night before can make all the difference to putting together a healthy lunch box."

She adds: "Look at the ingredients list of packaged foods and choose those that contain ingredients you recognise as real food. Avoid those that have lots of starch fillers or added sugars."

Many parents are feeling pressure to add foods like kale and quinoa to lunchboxes, and while they have nutritional benefits, Natoli says you "can get similar nutritional value from combining more common, everyday and affordable foods like spinach, broccoli, rocket, brown rice and wholemeal pasta."

"A simple lunch like an egg and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread with a piece of fruit is certainly a nutritious option," she said.

Choosing one food from each of the columns below is a really simple way to create a balanced and tasty lunch box.

"That way you can be confident kids are getting a broad range of nutrients from the foods they are eating and this will be contributing to meeting their nutritional requirements for the day," said Natoli.

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She also recommends keeping a list of lunch box options.

"Sometimes you can forget when you've tried something that worked and keeping a list helps maintain variety so they don't get bored."

Some examples of a healthy lunch box include:

  • Egg and salad sandwich with a tub of yoghurt and a handful of frozen grapes
  • Beef, grated cheese and vegetable wrap with a cup of fruit salad
  • Sushi rolls with tuna and carrot, a carton of milk and an apple
  • Quinoa, tofu and broccoli salad with cheese cubes and a banana
  • Chicken, vegetable and barley soup topped with grated cheese and a handful of sultanas