School Lunch Ideas for Healthy Lunch Boxes

Coming up with innovative, interesting and healthy school lunch ideas day in and day out tests most of us.  

Is it a daily chore trying to think up new ways to make school lunches look appetizing and appealing so that the food doesn’t end up in the trash, traded for something better or simply left in the lunch box?

If this is you then hopefully these school lunch ideas will provide some inspiration.

What are the daily requirements?

As well as looking interesting and tasting delicious, a healthy lunch should go a long way towards meeting our recommended daily dietary requirements.   For children this is:

daily dietary requirements

What are the essentials for a healthy lunch box?

If you are wondering what to pack for lunch think of the major food groups and try to include something from each:

  • Dairy
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Meat
  • Vegetables


One serve equals 1 cup milk, 1 tub yogurt, 1 cup custard, 2 slices of cheese.


One serve is 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear, 2 plums, apricots or kiwifruit, 1 cup of fruit salad or canned fruit, 2 tablespoons sultanas or 4 dried apricot halves.


1 serve is equal to one slice of bread, ½ bread roll, ¼ cup cooked rice, ½  cup cooked pasta or noodles.


1 serve equals 2 slices of roast meat, 120 g / 4 oz can tuna or salmon, 1 small chicken breast, 2 – 3 chicken drumsticks or 2 eggs.

For non meat meals this equals ½ cup cooked or canned beans, lentils or split peas or 1 small can of baked beans.


1 serve equals ½ cup of cooked vegetables, 1 small carrot, 1 tomato or 1 cup salad leaves.

School Lunch Box Ideas

So, with the above recommendations in mind, here are some fabulous lunch box ideas:

Bread Rolls
Rice Cakes

Pasta Salad
Noodle Salad
Fried Rice
Garden Salad

Bananas, grapes, kiwi fruit, slices of apple, pear or pineapple,  mandarin segments, watermelon, berries

Sultanas, dried apricots
Canned Fruit (in natural juice)

Trail mix - mixture of dried fruit and nuts

Hard Boiled eggs

Celery and carrot sticks with dips

Cheese sticks

Homemade muesli bars (if using bought, check the labels as many are high in sugar)

Savory muffins

Mini quiches




Tub of yogurt (try freezing it, it will be thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime)

lunchbox sandwiches

salad for lunch

lunchbox wraps

lunch box trail mix

muesli bars

Lunch Box Tips

To tempt picky eaters try packing food that is fun and colorful.

Food should be easy to eat and age appropriate.  Finger foods are ideal for younger children.  Older children are more able to manage salads.

Children have small stomachs and need frequent snacks, so always pack a mid-morning snack separate from lunch.

Pack food you know your child will eat.  If you introduce new food chances are it will return home again.  The time for introducing new food is at home.

Keep portions child-sized.  Packing too much will either result in over-eating or the food being wasted.

Ensure food is easy to unwrap and containers are easy to open for little fingers.

A lunchbox with compartments will keep foods separate and stop them from spoiling or becoming soggy.

Aim for variety.  Try to vary the food from day to day. 

Food Safety for Lunch Boxes

  • To ensure that meat and dairy products stay chilled use an insulated lunch box and a freezer pack.

  • If you don’t have one, freeze a small bottle of water or a tub of yogurt.
  • Always use chilled meat and cheese straight from the refrigerator.
  • If including food that is pre-cooked, chill it first.  Never pack it while still warm.

What about after school?

The kids arrive home from school ravenously hungry looking for food.  What do you feed them?  Here are some ideas for after school snacks.

» School Lunch Ideas

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