Back to School – Hacks for a Healthy Lunch Box

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   24th Aug 2018

As the kids prepare to go back to school, our expert dietitian Sarah Noone shares her top tips for a healthy start to the new school year.

Use the Lunchbox Checklist

Sarah’s advice is to try as far as possible to include all the main food groups in a packed school lunch box. This would involve including a portion of fruit, a portion of veggies for example: salad on a sandwich, carrot or cucumber sticks or some cherry tomatoes; a portion of protein e.g. tuna, chicken, turkey, egg, beans; a portion of dairy e.g. yogurt or cheese; and a portion of carbohydrates e.g. wholegrain bread, wholemeal pitta or even some oatcakes. Always remember to pack a bottle of water as well, she added.

It may sound obvious but for smaller children it is important to ensure that your child can open their own lunch box without difficulty, as it can be a problem for tiny hands.

Love the Leftovers

Using leftovers from the family’s favourite dinner or making a little extra for lunch the next day, not only saves lunch preparation time and money, but it is also is a great way of adding variety to the usual choices. “Get a thermos to keep foods hot or cold until lunchtime and don’t forget to pack a fork or spoon,” Sarah said.

"Using leftovers from the family's favourite dinner or making a little extra for lunch the next day is a great way of adding variety,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

Involve your kids

Sarah said that children were much more likely to be interested in, and eat their lunch if they were involved in helping to prepare it themselves. Whether it’s choosing which piece of fruit they would like, what type of bread to have or measuring out some nuts or dried fruit. Sarah said she would encourage older children to make their own sandwiches and not to be afraid to let them experiment.

Be Smart about Sandwiches

According to Sarah, it is a good idea to try using different types of bread like wholegrain/wholemeal breads, wraps or pittas. She also advised using leftover chicken from last night’s dinner on sandwiches as a switch for lunch meat and trying to get some lettuce, tomato or cucumber into sandwiches.

Plan and Prepare in advance

Sarah said it was important to plan and prepare in advance.  For example, she said that as much as possible the night before try washing and preparing veg and salad for sandwiches and put into containers in the fridge, portion out leftovers into containers after dinner and cut up fruit or veggie sticks. “The more you prepare in advance ahead of the early morning rush the better,” she said.


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