A healthy lunch box should include a wide variety of foods.

The lunchbox should include at least one portion each of

  1. Breads and cereals
  2. Fruit and vegetable food groups
  3. Dairy products
  4. Meat or an alternative (see Examples below)

Try not to offer the same foods on consecutive days

Make an effort to add interest to the lunchbox e.g. different types of bread – pitta bread, bagels, wholemeal rolls

Fluids are important for children – up to 6 cups of fluid should be encouraged daily – remember to avoid sugary and fizzy drinks.

Fun ideas

  • Use  biscuit cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes
  • Put juice drinks in the freezer overnight and as the day goes on it will thaw out and be cold and slushy
  • Theme a lunchbox on a different country e.g. Italian – add a pizza slice, Mexican – fill flour tortillas with a filling of your choice
  • In the summer, salads are light and refreshing and full of essential vitamins and minerals.

To help you get the correct portion size here’s a list of examples for all the food groups:

  • 1 portion of fruit or vegetable
  • 2 small fruit e.g. plums or satsuma
  • 1 banana or apple
  • 1 bunch of grapes
  • A handful of dried fruit e.g. raisins or sultanas
  • Celery
  • 1 portion of starchy foods such as bread and cereals
  • A slice of bread, a bread roll, tortilla wrap, pitta bread
  • A scone
  • Slice of deep pan pizza – avoid pepperoni, sausage, spicy meat and double cheese
  • 3-4 tablespoons of rice or pasta
  • 1 portion of dairy
  • A pot of custard or yogurt
  • A carton/glass of milk
  • A triangle of spreadable cheese or 2 cheese slices
  • 1 portion of meat or alternatives
  • One slice of meat or cheese in sandwich filling
  • ½ a small can of tuna or salmon
  • 1-2 tablespoons of chickpea spread e.g. hummus – try out as a dip with celery.

Healthier options to crisps

  • Washed, cut up raw veg (e.g. celery, pepper, cucumber)
  • Whole raw veg (e.g. cherry tomatoes)
  • Fruit (e.g. 1 apple, 1 banana, 2 kiwis, handful of grapes, small box of raisins)
  • Dried mixed fruit (no added sugar)
  • Breadsticks

Healthier options to confectionery

  • Mini carton of fruit in juice
  • Fromage frais or yogurt with crunchy bits
  • Currant buns, scones, fruit breads

Healthier options to fizzy drinks

  • Unsweetened fruit juice
  • Fizzy water or flavoured bottle water
  • Milk, flavoured milk or low-fat milkshakes

Make sure it’s clean and safe

  • Lunchboxes and drinks bottles are potential breeding grounds for germs.  They should be taken home, cleared out and washed with warm soapy water everyday.  A good tip is to make the lunch the night before and keep the lunchbox in the fridge overnight so they start the day really cold.  Don’t re-use products such as yogurts or cheese that have not been eaten the day before as they are likely to have been out of the fridge for too long.

Some useful websites for information regarding healthy eating for children, recipes and food safety information are:

  • www.healthinfo.ie                          Health Promotion Unit`
  • www.bordbia.ie                               Bord Bia
  • www.bim.ie                                       Bord Iascaigh Mhara
  • www.irishheart.ie                           Irish Heart Foundation
  • www.ndc.ie                                       National Dairy Council
  • www.safefoodonline.com           Safefood, Food Safety Promotion Board
  • www.fooddudes.ie                         Healthy Eating Programme
  • www.coeliac.ie                                Coeliac Society of Ireland
  • www.diabetesireland.ie               Diabetes Association