Fun ideas for healthy lunchboxes

by Dr Lucy Cooke. Top tips for creating healthy AND delicious packed lunches for your child.

Girl and boy eating sandwiches on grass

Introduction

A recent survey found that only 1% of children’s lunchboxes met nutritional guidelines, but preparing healthy and delicious packed lunches for children can be a real challenge. It’s all too easy to get into the habit of giving a sandwich, a bag of crisps and a chocolate biscuit every day - but it’s not the healthiest combination of foods and children will get bored pretty quickly if they get the same things all the time.

One of the problems is that children compare the contents of their lunchboxes. If they see chocolate and crisps in someone else’s box, they may want those things themselves. The answer is to keep it interesting. You’ll find lots of ideas here and we have given you some links to other places where you’ll find more help and advice.

How CBeebies can help

Check out the recipes on the ‘I Can Cook’ and ‘Big Cook, Little Cook’ web pages – lots of them are suitable for lunchboxes.

How about trying the Teddy Sandwiches or the Cheese and Spinach Snails which feature in Big Cook’s Recipe Book (see the Make & Colour section)? Or why not have a go at making Katy’s Boreks or Cheese and Vegetable Pasties (which you can find on the I Can Cook pages)?

How to make a magic moment

Ideally, a lunchbox should contain a source of starch and protein, some fruit, and a drink. Be creative and think outside the (lunch)box!

  • Try wraps instead of sandwiches, or quiche or a slice of pizza.
  • Pasta, couscous or rice salads are another good alternative to sandwiches, but don’t forget a fork or spoon!
  • Cut fruit up or give seedless grapes to make it easier to eat.
  • Offer cherry tomatoes, carrot, pepper or cucumber sticks with a favourite dip.
  • Give your child water instead of fruit drinks or juices.

Get your child involved with everything from choosing a lunchbox to preparing the foods to go in it. When you go to the supermarket, let your child choose the fruit or vegetables, or sandwich fillings that you buy. If possible, let them help you to make the salad or sandwich, cut up and wrap the fruit, and fill their own water bottle.

The more involved your child has been in the preparation, the more they’ll want to eat it.

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Top tips

  • Get your child involved in buying and preparing foods for the lunchbox.Include a small surprise from time to time – maybe a sweet or even a tiny toy.Cut fruit or vegetables up so they are easier and more fun to eat.If you include sandwiches, vary the bread as much as possible.Don’t give too much – children can be put off by large quantities.

Expert opinion

Children are much more willing to eat things if they feel they had some choice in what they’ve been given. Offer healthy alternatives and invite your child to choose one.

Dr Lucy Cooke, Psychologist (specialising in children’s eating behaviour)

Parent's tale

I cut my four-year-old daughter’s sandwiches with cookie cutters so they are in fun shape with no crusts. So she can have a star sandwich one day, a dog the next and it is a surprise too. She always eats her lunch!

Sharon, from Leeds

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