Healthy School Lunch Ideas – Filling Their Lunchboxes To Fuel Their Bodies

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As a parent, I find it soooo mundane organising and packing lunchboxes each school day. Worse than this… most of us who are making so much effort, are doing a really poor job at fueling our precious children’s bodies. Let’s look at why…


It truly breaks my heart to when I see many of the children's lunchboxes at school and kindy. Because usually there's:

  • So much sugar
  • So much refined junk
  • Not enough fibre
  • Not enough fat


Every single mum I know, of course, has the best intentions. But we don't know what we don't know.


Between the often conflicting nutritional advice available, and the (very convincing) irresponsible marketing by money guzzling refined food industry...many of us don't even realise that the healthy food we think we're packing in our kids' bags day after day are setting them up for poor concentration, low energy, crazy sugar highs - and crash and burn lows! 



And so I've put together some guidelines below (and heaps of ideas) so that you can be confident that you're filling your kids' lunchboxes to fuel after day. 


1. Watch out for hidden sugar


The amount of sugar in their lunchbox is an absolute priority!!


If you give your child sugar fixes (usually unknowingly!) at morning tea and lunch, they will come tumbling down from this high - around about the time they are due home from school ;-)


This is why kids are often grumpy and deflated in the afternoon. They generally won’t sleep as well either because their sugars are still cycling through the night, disturbing normal sleep patterns.


So you don’t put sugar in your kids lunchboxes you say? Let's take a closer look...

Kids can tolerate 5 tsp of sugar daily, maximum, according to W.H.O.. This is often reached after breakfast alone… with the average breakfast cereal containing 5 tsp of sugar, and many as high as 9tsp! But let’s get back to lunch and break it down…

  • Flavoured yoghurt – 3.5 tsp
  • Muesli bar – 2 tsp
  • 2 slices of bread – ½ tsp
  • Banana – 3.5 tsp
  • Apple – 2.5 tsp
  • Carrot – 1 tsp



This is a pretty typical lunchbox, and not considered terribly unhealthy or unacceptable by teachers… true? It has 13 tsp total sugar in it!!!!! Can you believe it? Almost 3 day’s worth of sugar for our kids.


But don't worry, we have plenty of easy-peasy ideas below for things to replace it with...



2. Choose wholefoods over refined foods


What is refined food? It is basically the opposite of “wholefood” as we term it today. It’s a food that isn’t recognizable as its original source any longer.


So things like chips, flavoured (uncultured) yoghurts, bread, muffins, cookies, biscuits, roll ups, most things in a packet… They have been processed the process... have lost their nutritional value. 


Yes they may still contain carbs, fats and proteins, but there are no micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and enzymes… which are what we need to repair, grow and function. And they're almost always loaded with refined sugar!



3. Add plenty of fibre


Fibre is something many don’t focus on in our meals. Fibre comes from wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Fibre is SO important as it creates:

  • healthy detoxification (keeps bowel regular)
  • gut health (feeds gut bacteria)
  • healthy weight (feel full longer)
  • healthy blood sugars (slows sugar absorption)
  • heart health (essential for good cholesterol and blood vessel health)

I always have at least half of my kid’s lunchboxes full of high fibre foods, before I start adding anything else. Try these ideas:

  • Veges/vege kebabs: A chunk of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrots, sliced capsicum, crispy lettuce, or leftover cooked veges … choose ones your child likes so they get eaten.
  • Make bliss balls or other slices out of nuts and seeds, or just put a handful in a portion of their lunchbox.
  • Happy Snacks Chic Peas or Fa’ava Beans, or hummus are great to get yummy legumes in.
  • Leftover lentil hotpots, chickpea curries and other vegetarian based meals
  • Fresh fruit / fruit kebabs (I usually have a daily limit of one piece as it is instant sugar intake that takes from your daily 5 tsp quota!)
  • Sushi (homemade) - use quinoa, brown rice, cauliflower as alternative fillers (white rice has had the fibre coat taken from around it)
  • Wraps filled with veges - use sliced meat, corn tortillas, lettuce or rice paper as outer layer to avoid gluten if need

4. Pack it with good fats


Most people in my generation are still pretty scared of fat. We usually love the concept of high protein, but forget about fat. Kids brains are constantly learning and developing… and what are they made of? FAT!

Fat is also great because it is a slow release form of fuel for our kid’s busy bodies; which means no sugar highs for the teachers or frustrating lows after school.


So how can you get more fat into the lunchbox?

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Plain cultured (sour) yoghurt
  • Cheeses
  • Avocado
  • High fat baking (recipes that include coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds)
  • Leftover meats
  • Peanut butter (we love Pic’s Peanut Butter Slugs! But only if your school allows peanuts obviously)
  • Pate/hummus/aioli as condiments
  • Bliss balls (homemade… look for recipes with less dried fruit and honey/maple syrup - they're often way too sweet anyway!)
  • Bone broth soups
  • Leftover meat stews
  • Chia seed pudding (google this if you’ve never made it… it's yum!)


Lunchboxes don’t need to become harder to make, more expensive or restricted. Make better choices at the grocery store, check the “sugar” nutritional value (4g = 1tsp) and stick to whole, real foods in your fridge.


Your child may resist for a week, wanting the sugar and easy food back …but persist. High sugar diets change our taste-buds, and after a week our taste starts to return and real food tastes yummy again!! Just like breaking any addiction, consistency is key.


Your child won’t starve him/herself, and the reward in the long-run will be well worth it.




BY Dr Jolanta Williams