You’re not alone if you’ve ever found yourself staring blankly into your child’s empty lunch box, wondering what in the world to fill it with. How much? How many veggies? Will they even eat it? Will it keep them full enough?
As a mum, I understand how tricky it can be balancing what you know they need to eat with the school’s lunchbox rules (don’t get me started; that’s a whole other issue) and then their food preferences. It’s a lot.
To help you (us) out, I’ve compiled an epic list of 50+ options that we have on regular rotation. There’s wholefood options as well as some convenient packet options. I’ve even put it together as a printable PDF so you can have a quick reference hard copy on the back of the pantry door.
Choose something from each of the food groups listed below and you’re well on your way to a filling and nutritious lunchbox.
- Fresh seasonal fruit (eg. Apple, banana, mandarin)
- Berry salad
- Melon balls
- Fruit kebabs (older kids)
- Frozen berries in yoghurt
- Kiwi fruit, served with a spoon
- Canned pineapple, in natural juice
- Dried fruit is a good back up option when you run out of fresh, but it shouldn’t make a regular appearance.
- Baked apple crisps
- Magic Fruit Muffins
- Carrot, capsicum, cucumber or celery cut into sticks with hommus
- Roast pumpkin, potato, sweet potato or baby carrots
- Snow peas and green beans with tzatziki
- Mini garden salad
- Potato Salad
- Canned baby corn, drained
- Small can salt-reduced baby corn
- Boiled corn on the cob
- Pickled onion, gherkin, olives
- BBQ vegetable kebabs
- Coles Scoop & Weight Vegetable chips
- Celery sticks filled with cream cheese
- Savoury muffins
- Zucchini crisps
Milk & Alternatives (Dairy)
- Devondale UHT tetra pack milk (200ml)
- Cheese sticks (DIY or packet are fine)
- Cheese stringers (these really are just real mozzarella cheese!)
- Tzatziki dip with veggies
- Greek yoghurt with stewed fruit
- Greek yoghurt dough scrolls
- Tamar Valley kids yoghurt pouch
- Chobani or Siggi’s yoghurt tub
- Alpro (dairy free) yoghurt
- Sanitarium Soy Good tetra pack soy milk (250ml)
Meat & Alternatives (Protein)
- Sliced leftover lean sausages (I love Peppercorn Extra Lean)
- Roast chicken drumstick (supermarket BBQ chickens are fine)
- No-drain tuna with crackers (flavoured are fine)
- Boiled egg (whole, halved or mashed in a sandwich)
- Lunchbox Frittata
- Small can baked beans
- Boiled frozen edamame beans
- Hemp seeds sprinkled on yoghurt
- Sandwiches (find out how to choose a better bread here)
- Whole grain wraps
- Vita-Weat crackers
- Brown rice crackers
- Freedom Foods Ancient Grain Bar
- Brown rice salad
- Boiled wholegrain pasta
- Wholemeal pikelet
- Handful of SanitariumWeet-Bix bites (I don’t love this is a breakfast on it’s own but its a good snack.)
- Handful of Be Natural Whole Grain Mini Bites
- Nut free chocolate bliss balls
- Macro Mite Bites balls
- Macro Apple Sultana & Quinoa Bites
What if my child only likes a few options from one (or more) food groups?
That’s fine, introduce variety by mixing up how you offer the food. With carrot for example, you can serve it in sticks, cut into grounds, grated, lightly steamed, roasted or used in a vegetable hommus. Continue to expose other and new foods to children in small amounts too, but focus on what they will eat.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist with a decade of experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and runs workplace nutrition, private consultations and group information sessions in Perth, Western Australia. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.