Back to school: healthy lunch box ideas

Cool lunch box ideas for a healthier start to the school year.
Cool lunch box ideas for a healthier start to the school year. Photo: Getty Images

It's that time of year again; summer holidays are coming to an end and you have to start the back to school planning. Healthy eating has become a big trend in many schools across the country, canteen menus have changed to fit in with healthy eating guidelines and we're encouraged to make lunch boxes the same. To make things simpler for you, we have come up with few ideas to get you started.

The Australian Government's Healthy Kids campaign provides easy guidelines of what types of food to put in lunch boxes, making sure your kids are kept sustained all day. The guidelines suggest that you should include lean proteins, vegetables and fruit and reduced fat dairy products.

The Healthy Kids Association also has great lunch box ideas associated with a balanced lunch box, they say to pack the 'core 4 +1 extra snack for active kids'. This includes a main lunch (such as a sandwich or wrap), a core snack, a piece of fruit and water to drink.

Snacks

Healthy snacks can be hard to come across and even harder to convince your kids to eat, so making them yourself can be the easiest option - you know exactly what's in them, they last longer and, your kids can join in and help!

Sandwich-free lunches

Everyone gets sick of eating the same thing everyday. If your kids are getting sick of sandwiches, there are a few different options that you can give them which are healthy alternatives to sandwiches, and full of different flavours.

  • Rice Paper rolls - This is an easy and tasty summer lunch that your kids will love. You can add their favourite lean meat, veggies like cucumber and carrot, and a little sweet chilli or soy sauce for extra flavour.
  • Pesto and chorizo spelt srolls - These delicious scrolls are excellent straight out of the oven for after school snacks or are a perfect alternative to a sandwich for lunch boxes. They can also be frozen.
  • Antipasto Lunch box - If you've got a lot of bits and pieces in your fridge and not sure what to do with it, this is a great, unusual and tasty option. Fill your little ones lunch box with cheeses, cold meats, some veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes and olives and a little bread.  They will love mixing different foods together and can pick at it all day if they wish!
  • Gluten-Free Salmon, Quinoa and Ricotta cups - This is a great gluten free option for your kids. Include a small salad in their lunch box, and they will get all the nutrients they need for the day.  
  • Vegetable frittata slice - It's packed with protein and the goodness of vegetables plus it's gluten free.

Main lunches

Sandwich spreads and good old ham and cheese sandwiches everyday can be boring and unhealthy, so we've found a few alternatives to help you create more interesting and healthier sandwiches.

  • Celery, ham and egg roll-ups - It's not a wrap, it's a roll-up! This one is a simple, everyday lunch giving your kids protein and a good serving of vegetables. Make it tasty with some mayo and mustard, and they will want it everyday!
  • Spinach, hommus and veggie wraps - The most difficult part of school lunches is ensuring that there is enough protein in the lunch box. That's why spinach hommus is the hero of these wraps. Packed full of fibre, protein and goodness, you could serve it as a dip with crudite, or simply use it as a spread to replace butter and add your child's favourite filling.
  • Cheesy monster pull-apart - The power of spinach has been harnessed to colour this oozy, cheesy pull-apart bread a lurid green, guaranteed to satisfy any little monster's hunger. Alternatively you could make this same recipe as a scroll*.
  • Lunch box quesadillas - These lunch box quesadillas are the perfect way to use up leftovers from dinner and give the kids a filing lunch. As well as being full of nutrients for healthy kids.

Preparing lunches can be a difficult task especially for multiple children, most of the above recipes are easy and can be made to suit working and time-poor families. There are a range of recipes for kids available to access on the Healthy Kids website and Essentialkids.com.au to help you plan and create variations to your kids lunch boxes.

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