Fuel for school!

Reviewed by our expert panel
Fuel for school!

With these nutritious lunchbox ideas kids will stay healthy and have more than enough energy to get through the school day. Just remember your ABCs…

Building the ideal school lunchbox

Having a healthy lunch is key to your child’s development. It provides growing children plenty of energy for the playground, aids concentration and memory and helps them reach their potential in class. Get the kids involved and follow our fun steps to build a healthy lunchbox!

A. Start with the base

Carbohydrates give kids plenty of energy for an active school day. Choose wholemeal, wholegrain (like soy-linseed) and high fibre options over plain white bread, rice or pasta as these provide the longest-lasting energy and help little tummies feel full. Plus, fibre helps keep the bacteria in tummies healthy.

Energy to burn

  • 2 slices soy-linseed bread
  • 1 small wholemeal bread roll
  • 1 wholemeal pita pocket
  • 1 multigrain wrap
  • 1 cup cooked pasta

B. Add a boost of protein

Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles. Foods such as red meat, chicken, eggs, tuna, cheese and beans are also rich in essential nutrients such as iron and magnesium to support normal growth and development. Cook a little extra the night before then add leftover chicken or boiled eggs to lunch the next day.

Building blocks

  • 1/2 small chicken breast
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans or cooked lentils
  • 95g can tuna or salmon in spring water
  • 20-30g reduced-fat cheese

C. Don’t forget the veges

It’s the colourful vegetables in our day that keep us in tip-top health! The more colour, the more nutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants. Get creative by popping in bite-sized cherry tomatoes and a cooked corn cob. Or try adding grated carrot, slivers of cucumber and crunchy lettuce to sandwiches. A little variety makes all the difference in whether veges get eaten or not!

Colourful goodness

  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup celery pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 corn cob
  • 1 cup garden salad

D. Pop in some fruit

Whole fruit is a great snack for energy and nutrients. Whole fruit also has more fibre than fruit juice. For little hands chop larger fruit pieces into bite-sized chunks or mix up a colourful fruit salad. Fruit tubs and dried fruit are a fast alternative.

Sweet as

  • 1 small bunch grapes
  • 1 small banana
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sultanas
  • 1 pottle diced fruit

E. Now add dairy

The calcium kids eat while they are growing creates healthy bones and teeth for life. Yoghurt, milk and cheese are a great source of calcium and most kids will happily eat them. Try freezing yoghurt pouches or pack a small milk drink with an ice brick to keep it cool.

Cool it for calcium

  • 1 small pottle low-fat yoghurt
  • 2 slices reduced-fat cheese
  • 250ml flavoured milk
  • 1 cheese stick

F. Prepare for snack o’clock

When the home-time bell rings, it’s time to refuel for after-school activities. Give your child a couple of choices and keep these at the front of the fridge/kitchen pantry or in their sports bag.

Keep ‘em going!

  • 1 small bag plain popcorn
  • 2 grainy crackers with a scrape of Marmite
  • 30g dried fruit and seed trail mix
  • 1 high-fibre muesli bar
  • carrot sticks + hummus
  • 1 homemade vege frittata
  • 10 wholegrain rice crackers plus tomato salsa

G. Include a drink or water bottle

Help your child stay well hydrated with plenty of water. In hot weather, freeze a water bottler to keep food cold and at a safe temperature. Fruit juice is an easy addition to lunchboxes, but try to keep it as an occasional treat as it adds sugar and kilojoules without any of the fibre in whole fruit.

Try these healthy lunchbox combos

A + B Carbs + Protein

Sweet corn fritters (without chutney and cottage cheese)

C Veges

1/2 cucumber and 1/2 carrot sliced in rounds, alternating in colour (see pic)

D Fruit

4 dried apricot halves

E Dairy

150g pottle yoghurt

F Snack

4 crackers with a scrape of Marmite and 4 x slices (24g) cheese (we used 4 x slices Mainland Edam cracker cuts)

G Water

Include a full water bottle to remind your child to keep hydrated

A + B Carbs + Protein

Bean wrap: 1 x multigrain tortilla filled with 1/4 mashed avocado, 1/4 x 400g can four-bean mix in spring water (we used Wattie’s), 1 tablespoon grated cheese, 2 tablespoons grated carrot, 1/2 small tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce. Note: Don’t overstuff wrap — keep it quite thin for small hands.

C + E Veges + Dairy

3 vege and cheese skewers: on each stick skewer, pierce 1 cherry tomato, 2 cucumber chunks and 1 cube reduced-fat cheese. Note: Trim ends of skewers so they are blunt.

D Fruit

1 cup mixed pineapple pieces and sliced kiwifruit

F Snack

Homemade Fruit and nut muesli slice

G Water

Include a full water bottle to remind your child to keep hydrated

A + B + C + E Carbs + Protein + Veges + Dairy

Sushi sandwich roll (6 pieces)

To make sushi, remove crusts from sliced bread. Flatten each slice with a rolling pin. Spread spreadable part of filling over bread slice, leaving 2cm strip free of filling along 1 edge. Top with extra veges/meat. Roll up to enclose filling using the extra spread to seal. Cut each sandwich in 3 rounds.

Fish sushi: 1 slice fresh wholemeal bread (we used Nature’s Fresh Wheatmeal Sandwich Slice) spread with 95g can drained tuna in spring water mixed with 2 teaspoons spreadable light cream cheese (plus extra to seal sushi roll — we used Philadelphia), topped with 1-2 leaves lettuce and 1/4 avocado, cut in thin strips

Chicken sushi: 1 slice fresh wholemeal bread (we used Nature’s Fresh Wheatmeal Sandwich Slice) spread with 2 teaspoons hummus (plus extra to seal sushi roll) topped with 50g cooked shredded chicken, 1/4 cucumber (cut in thin matchsticks) and 1/4 carrot (cut in thin matchsticks)

D Fruit

1 small orange decorated like a basketball
Small bunch green grapes (1/2 cup in total)

F Snack

6 wholegrain rice crackers (we used Sakata)
2 tablespoons hummus

G Water

Include a full water bottle to remind your child to keep hydrated

A + B + C Carbs + Protein + Veges

Homemade chicken pasta salad: 1 cup cooked pasta (we used San Remo Vegeroni) with 50g shredded cooked chicken, 3-4 cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 strip fresh red capsicum (diced), 1 strip green capsicum (diced), 1/4 carrot (diced) with drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice

D Fruit

1 small mandarin (peeled, segmented)
1 1/2 tablespoons sultanas (store in a small container/sealable bag)

E Dairy

20-30g reduced-fat cheese

F Snack

Baked tortilla chips with salsa: 10-12 x 3cm edged ‘corn-chip’ sized triangles cut from 1 wholegrain tortilla (we used Old El Paso), sprayed with olive oil and baked in oven until crisp with 2 tablespoons tomato salsa (we used Old El Paso Mild Chunky Tomato Salsa) in a small container

G Water

Include a full water bottle to remind your child to keep hydrated

A + B + C Carbs + Protein + Veges

Smiley egg-fried ricefor edible appeal, top rice with an extra hard-boiled egg-white smiley face (see pic)

D Fruit

120g pottle fruit
1/2 cup sliced strawberry quarters

E Dairy

4 x slices reduced-fat cheese with 4 x crackers (we used Mainland Edam Cracker Cuts cut in small heart shapes using a cookie cutter and Carr’s Table Water Crackers)

F Snack

Snack pack air-popped popcorn (we used Pop ‘n’ Good Light and Buttery)

G Water

Include a full water bottle to remind your child to keep hydrated.

First published: Feb 2015

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