quick and easy kids lunchbox ideas

I feel as if I’m on a lunchbox crusade, trying to defend the lunchbox against the growing (and seemingly correct) reports that our school lunchboxes are unhealthy – just 1% make the grade. And a recent study stated that nearly half of our lunchbox food is thrown away as it is too ‘uncool’ or ‘boring’. Unsurprisingly it seems it’s the veggies and leftovers that go and the crisps, biscuits and desserts that are eaten. So this has prompted me to give a few practical healthy lunchbox ideas in this blog.

Parents don’t intentionally intend to scupper their children’s health by including rubbishy food in their lunchboxes, but faddy eaters, peer pressure, insistence on the latest children’s branded yogurt, lack of time or the very real possibility that many parents have no clue what constitutes a good lunchbox, is clearly resulting in poor lunches for many lunchbox kids. A genuine parental fear is that children will end up going through the whole school day on an empty stomach unless something the kids reliably eat is included – even if it is just crisps and biscuits. So what’s the solution? 

Google ‘healthy lunchbox ideas’ and you’ll get pages of inspiration – but many of these suggestions just wouldn’t work for us – lettuce based salads, curried egg mayo and watercress sandwiches, coleslaw, or grated carrot in any form.  Ideas have got to be practical and edible – there’s no point in them being healthy if the kids won’t eat them!  

So here are the various combinations that work well for us:

1. Dips, Oatcakes, Vegetable Sticks and Seasonal Fruit

I rotate a range of different dips and types of hummus for a couple of lunchboxes each week.

Benefits: Bean or fishy dips are sources of protein – and go down well with kids . We make a quick smoked mackerel or hot smoked salmon dip in the food processor, blending lemon juice, fish and a couple of tablespoons of Greek or sheep’s yogurt. Using fish in the dip supplies Omega 3 fats, great for children’s brain development and learning. I usually add a small knife in the lunchbox for the kids to spread the dip on fibre-rich, gluten-free oatcakes (which look like biscuits), and add veggie sticks in case they want to dip in. In late summer and autumn I use cheap seasonal fruit as much as possible – plums, berries, apple or pear slices sprinkled with lemon juice – the slices are quicker to eat than a whole apple.

2. Lunchbox Ploughmans

Soda bread, olives, tomatoes, manchego cheese, natural yogurt with berry compote

Benefits: the kids like making our simple yeast-free, low-salt soda bread the night before
but it’s easy to buy. Olives are a healthy fat source and contribute fibre, but can be high salt (although less than the traditional lunchbox staples of ham sandwiches and crisps) so I stop at 5-6 olives. We currently like the Sicilian Nocellara olives which are in most supermarkets and aren’t at all bitter. A couple of fresh tomatoes adds colour and antioxidants, and the manchego cheese is a hard sheep’s cheese – so good for those children who don’t do well on cow’s milk, or who react to lactose (hard cheese is low lactose). I add a couple of dollops of natural yogurt to a pot with some (free and cheap!) hedgerow blackberries I’ve simmered with 1tbsp water, and top with a drizzle of maple syrup.

3. Hummus and Pitta Breads

Small pot of hummus, sun blush tomatoes, edamame beans, toasted wholemeal pitta cut into strips, grapes

Benefits: Its good to get children used to meat-free lunches and hummus is easy to make
– or buy. Wholemeal pitta breads are easy to dip in and the edamame beans on the side add a little more protein and fibre. Mild, sunblushed tomatoes are a good alternative to fresh tomatoes; cooking tomatoes makes the beneficial lycopene content more available.

4. Wraps and Energy Balls

Wholemeal or corn tortilla wrap with spinach, organic roast chicken, avocado and cucumber sticks, energy balls

Benefits: easy to assemble, wholemeal wraps are easy to buy and higher fibre; use pure corn tortillas – or even a thin omelette if you want to go gluten-free. I use leftover roast chicken in this wrap. Young spinach leaves are packed with antioxidants and are deemed by my daughter as an acceptable ‘salad’ leaf in combination with the avocado. A couple of mint chocolate energy balls afterwards serve as a sweet treat.

5. Drumsticks and Popcorn

Chicken drumsticks, sugar snap peas, sourdough bread, blueberries, popcorn

Benefits: easy to make: buy or roast drumsticks the night before; the popcorn takes just
two minutes in the morning and is a winner with kids. The sourdough bread is yeast-free with a long fermentation period meaning it is easy to digest and the minerals are more available. Blueberries and peas add fibre, colour and antioxidants to this fun lunch. Chocolate flapjacks are a sweet alternative to popcorn.

For more ideas what to put in school lunch boxes, read here 

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