During a long day at school, little brains work overtime concentrating on learning their lessons. To keep them full of energy all day, children need a healthy lunch.

Every parent wants to do what’s best for their child, but as we try to cram even more into our already hectic lives packing a nutritious lunch (for both children and parents!) can get skipped over in the rush to get everyone out the door on time.

As school bells ring across the country, let’s take a fresh look at lunchboxes and what should – and shouldn’t – go in them.

Great lunchbox components

A balanced lunchbox contains a little from each of the main food groups.

Some protein and dairy to fill kids up and keep them feeling satisfied for longer; carbohydrates to provide plenty of energy for running, thinking and playing; and plenty of fruits and vegetables to provide fibre and energy. Remember to keep children well hydrated with easily accessible drinks – water and milk make good choices.

Try some of these tasty lunchbox ideas:

  • Cheese slices or cubes
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Wholemeal sandwiches with lean meat and salad
  • Grilled chicken pieces
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Pasta salad with low-fat dressing
  • Wraps filled with lean meat and salad
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Whole fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, watermelon, kiwi fruit, pears
  • Fruit snack tubs
  • Vegetable sticks, such as red capsicum, carrot, celery, baby corn
  • Salads with low-fat dressings – add tuna, salmon or cold meat slices for a more filling lunch
  • Salsa or hummus, with vegetable sticks or crackers
  • Milk, flavoured (low-sugar) or plain
  • Yoghurt tubs

Helpful tips

  • Use an insulated bag or add a frozen drink or ice pack to the lunchbox to keep food cool and safe from harmful bacteria.
  • Involve your child when packing their lunchbox. They’re more likely to eat their lunch if they’ve been involved in choosing what’s packed.
  • Save precious morning time by pre-packaging handfuls of dried fruits, crackers and other healthy snack foods in small zip-lock bags – easy to pop into lunch boxes.
  • Present foods in an interesting way or shape or in individual containers to make everyday foods seem more appealing.
  • If time is tight in the mornings, try making lunches the night before.
  • Avoid sugar-laden, high-fat snacks – often cleverly disguised as “healthy” snacks, these foods contribute little to your child’s nutritional needs.
  • Treats, such as chips, chocolate and lollies, are okay on occasion, but on a daily basis aim for healthier treats such as frozen grapes, yoghurt, dried fruits, ‘ants on a log’ (celery filled with cream cheese topped with currants), high-fibre muffins.
  • If your school has a nut-free policy, protect those children with life-threatening nut allergies and don’t pack peanuts, walnuts, nutella, peanut butter, or any other nut products in lunchboxes.
Calorie King
CalorieKing's mission is to provide the best information, tools and education to Australians to help them conquer their weight.

CalorieKing is the brainchild of Allan Borushek, registered dietitian, co-found here at and author of "Allan Borushek's Pocket Calorie & Fat Counter", Australia's best-selling calorie counter for over 30 years.

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