Looking for information on how to pack a healthy school lunchbox that kids will love? Look no more!
Use the colourful Pick’n’Mix poster or see our list of our favourite websites, resources and videos.
For a healthy lunchbox pick & mix something from each food group 1 – 6!
The Department of Health Pick & Mix 1-6 poster provides a range of ideas and practical tips to inspire families to create healthy school lunchboxes
Pick and mix one tasty option from each of the five core food groups to create a healthy lunchbox every day:
- Fruit (e.g. fresh, frozen, pureed and canned in natural juice)
- Vegetables, legumes and beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods
- Plain water
What goes in a healthy lunchbox?
Better Health Channel
Practical tips for packing a healthy school lunchbox, with helpful advice for parents on food refusal, peer pressure and more.
Healthy Kids Association
Offers tips for healthy lunchbox snacks and easy snack ideas.
Cancer Council NSW
A fun and interactive website to build a healthy lunchbox by mixing and matching items. Plus recipes and advice on food safety, involving children, and time saving tips.
Stuck for ideas for the kids school lunches? Try these combos for inspiration.
Pick n Mix
Better Health Channel
A Monday-to-Friday guide on what to pack for morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack, plus drinks.
Healthy Kids Association
This resource shows 10 different lunchboxes made with foods from the five food groups.
Use the Pick ‘n’ Mix sheet to plan your lunches for the week, then fill this out and keep it you on your fridge to make packing healthy lunches easy!
Healthy lunchbox combos (video)
Décor, Nutrition Australia and Dairy Australia
Mix-and-match something from every food group to create colourful combinations that your kids will love.
Lunch boxes – healthy shopping ideas (video)
Better Health Channel
Victorian State Public Health Nutritionist, Veronica Graham, takes us shopping for the right foods to include in your child’s lunchbox.
Today we’re in the supermarket shopping to make a healthy lunchbox. Every parent wants their child to have a healthy lunchbox and there are lots of reasons why we’d want that.
One, it helps the child learn and concentrate even better, it helps their growth and development and most importantly, it sets up good eating patterns for the rest of their life.
The secret to a really good lunchbox is to be varied and balanced. There are 5 things that should go into the lunchbox every day – a crunchy colourful vegetable, a piece of fruit, go seasonal. Something from the carbohydrate or breads and cereals group – bread, a wrap, rice, pasta. Something from the dairy group such as milk, cheese or a yoghurt. And finally a growing or protein food. That could be an egg, some tuna, some leftover meat or chicken, small can of beans or some hummus. They are all great protein foods.
Finally, every lunchbox needs some water in it – plain water from the tap, perfect!
If you want your child to have a healthy lunchbox, there’s only one way that happens – and that is the shopping needs to be healthy too. If you’re home trying to make a healthy lunchbox and you haven’t done a healthy shop, it’s impossible.
So we’re here to see what we can put in our shopping basket to make lunches for the week as healthy as possible.
Go for colour when you’re picking your vegetables – children love colour. Capsicums, go with what’s on special – red and green is always good in the lunch, looks gorgeous.
Look for small, lunchbox sized fruit. Little pears or little apples. Today I can see there is a great big bag of small red apples which is perfect for lunchboxes.
The trick with bread is to not always go for the sliced bread – try to vary it up. You can see lots of supermarkets have great variety. For today I will buy some of this Turkish bread and that will be really nice with some dip.
Dairy foods are a fantastic addition to your child’s lunch. They are really important for strong bones, strong teeth and for growth and development. Whether you have yoghurt or cheese or milk, they are all good additions. Just remember to pack a freezer block in there to keep it cool throughout the day.
Things best out of the lunchbox are things like lollies and chocolates like this. Crisps and chips, muesli bars, any sort of fruit bars like fruit balls and fruit straps. Sweet drinks, cordials, softdrinks don’t need to be in the lunchbox. You’re much better off with milk or water.
If you’re going to include a cake or biscuit in the lunchbox, try and make it a healthy one. If it’s a muffin, make it a blueberry and banana muffin. Try to add some fruit into those products and they’ll be much better for the child.
Lunchboxes – how to make them healthy (video)
Better Health Channel
Victorian State Public Health Nutritionist, Veronica Graham, shares three healthy and delicious lunchbox examples for the kids and provides some great food preparation tips to save you time throughout the week.
Making a healthy lunch can be really easy – and one way to make it easier is to use leftovers from the night before.
Last night we had frittata for dinner and we have some left over. So in this case it was a vegetable frittata, packed with vegetables, egg and milk so it’s an excellent start to the lunch. I’m going to leave it in the foil and just wrap it up.
Because I’m using a leftover, I’m using an insulated lunchbox which will keep the heat out. In addition, every lunch should have a serve of dairy in it. In this case I have a UHT milk which has been frozen overnight. So I’ll add that in and that will keep things extra cool.
Vegetables are one of the most important things in the lunch – they give crunch and colour and they are bursting with nutrition. To make vegetables more appealing, try doing things like popping a ribbon around them. Not only do they look special, they are easy to carry out to the playground. A child will pick that up and walk out really happily with that.
We had watermelon on special – so it’s just a matter of cutting a couple of slices. Now you could just pop it in there on a facewasher – but in this case I’ll just do a couple of cubes and pop it in a container. It’s a good idea to stock up on these things – they’re really inexpensive.
Just adding a couple of strawberries in there will make it look good. A lot of schools have a fruit snack so this is perfect for that.
Finally, good lunches need a carbohydrate or bread and cereal product in there. I’ve grabbed a handful of blackcurrent shredded wheat. Pop them in a recyclable bag and they go in the lunch as well.
There you have a really fantastic lunch – looks good, easy and it took me a matter of a minute to put together.
A really neat idea is to cut a hole in the bread roll and make a pocket like that. You can fill it with anything you like. Today I’m using a really good protein food. I’ve mixed tuna with butter beans and some chopped up cucumber. Put that in the fridge on Sunday night and then for Monday and Tuesday morning, it’s just a matter of filling the bread roll.
Got the sandwich so now the next thing is a piece of fruit. Fruit bowl here – stone fruit is in season at the moment. We’ll select a plum and nectarine there. Really easy, nice size – in the lunchbox it goes.
Vegetables are another really important part of the school lunch – they give great colour, great crunch and great nutrition. To make it easier, I cut up a bunch of celery on Sunday night, sit it in water. It stays absolutely crispy all week. Just take out a small handful and from my store of containers, in it goes – really easy.
A really good snack idea is popcorn. Popcorn is not only healthy, it’s very inexpensive. I’ve used plain old popcorn and popped it on the stove over there – it takes about 2 minutes.
To make it more interesting, why not adding a couple of dried apricots, cut up roughly and sprinkle those on top and a small handful of currents and sultanas – it makes a yummy snack.
Final two bits to add to the lunch – the dairy component is a tub of yoghurt that has been frozen and finally some water and that will go in the side pocket.
Over the weekend I made these muffins – polenta, sweet potato and capsicum. They are a really great addition and a nice change from the sandwich. This recipe is on the Better Health Chanel.
Vegetable sticks, some cherry tomatoes. An addition you might like – if your child likes hummus or tzatziki or beetroot dip, you can add a small amount of dip to go with the vegetables.
We call this the snake orange. And with a nice little knife, you can cut around the orange, cutting just the skin off. It doesn’t take long. Remove the orange from the peel. Give it a few quick cuts like this and place it in the natural skin.
Finally into this lunchbox, just adding some cheese cubes and last of all little frozen water block that will keep the lunch cool, the tzatziki cool and will also be a nice little drink of cold water at lunchtime.
[Children enter to take lunchboxes]
Off you go, there you go. There you go Alex. Out to go, off to school – have a good day!
Resources and posters
Healthy Eating Advisory Service
Pick and mix a tasty option from each of the five core food groups to create a healthy lunchbox every day.
NSW Multicultural Health Communication
Simple lunchbox checklists to help children and adults understand which foods make up a healthy lunch box. Available in English, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian, Somali, Macedonian, Vietnamese and Traditional Chinese.
Department of Education, Western Australia
Translated info sheets available in Burmese, Dari, Dinka, Hindi, Indonesian, Karen, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Tigrinya, Vietnamese, English, Farsi, and Arabic.
How to keep food fresh and safe
Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this document show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation. Copyright © State of Victoria 2016
Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.