Thinking of healthy and exciting pack lunch can be a daily challenge, especially if you can’t see your child happily trotting off to school with a box of sprouting mung beans and you’re not giving in to the demands of crisps and chocolate. The following pages will give you help and advice on packing a healthier packed lunch and meals, it will cover advice on how to read food labels so you can make better choices in the shops and will give you recipe ideas to start you off.

Advice from NHS choices says a healthier packed lunch should contain:

  • Starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta
  • Protein foods like beans, eggs, fish, meat, cheese (or dairy alternative)
  • Vegetables or salad and fruit
  • Side dish like low-fat low-sugar yoghurt, tea cake, fruit bread, plain rice cake, homemade plain popcorn, sugar free jelly
  • Drink like water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar free or no-added-sugar drinks

Healthier Break Time Snacks

Children like to eat with their food with their hands, so chop up raw vegetables like carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip vegetables in.

Try chopped apple, orange segments, strawberries, blueberries, halved grapes or melon slices to make it easier for them to eat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger food. Try spreading low-fat soft cheese on them.

Swap chocolate, cakes, biscuits and cereal bars for malt loaf, tea cakes, fruit breads or fruit. Fruit can be fresh or canned in juice not in syrup.

*Dried fruit is not recommended as it’s high sugar content can be bad for teeth, but is OK when eaten at meal times.*

Making Lunchboxes healthier

It may take some time for your child to get used to a healthier lunchbox but keep trying. These tips may help:

  • Get your child involved in selecting and preparing what goes in their lunchbox. They’re more likely to eat it if they have helped prepare it.
  • Get ideas on how to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet.
  • Read supermarket labels to help you buy healthier foods for your child’s lunch.


Plain milk or water are the best choices for children’s teeth. If you want to pack fruit juice in your child’s lunchbox, stick to a 150ml portion. Better still, dilute it with still or sparkling water to make it more hydrating. It’s best to avoid drinks like squash, fruit juice drinks and flavoured water (even if they’re labelled as ‘sugar-free’, ‘no added sugar’ or ‘reduced sugar’) – they offer very little nutritional benefit.

Further information