Lunchbox ideas

Every lunchbox should include dairy as well as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and protein. Here are some easy ways to incorporate the five food groups:

  • Sandwich dried apricots together with spreadable cream cheese
  • Cut the crusts off a slice of bread, and top with sliced ham and a cheese stick, roll up firmly to create fun Cheesy Roll Arounds
  • Cook a little extra dinner the night before and save for lunch the next day. Pasta salad, quiche and homemade pizza slices are just a few examples that are delicious cold for lunch
  • Pop a small container of your child’s favourite dairy dip such as French onion, avocado, or tzatziki with vegetable sticks in their lunchbox
  • Sweet dips can also make a delicious treat! Pop cream cheese in a container and sprinkle with cinnamon and honey, delicious for kids to dip crisp apple wedges or fingers of banana into
  • Jumping beans pasta salad: Toss a simple tuna and pasta or potato salad with this simple and delish dressing: ¼ cup natural yogurt, 2 teaspoons mayonnaise and ¼ teaspoon salt reduced taco seasoning
  • Pop a few cubes of mozzarella or Swiss cheese in a container with sticks of your child’s favourite veggies for an energy boosting snack pack
  • Mix up sweet and savoury! Pop some cubes of cheddar in with some grapes and popcorn, sultanas and pretzels.

Sandwich fillings

  • Banana, ricotta and honey
  • Mashed egg and mayonnaise with a handful of grated cheddar
  • Ham, Swiss cheese and pickles – an oldie but a goodie
  • Cream cheese, tuna, cucumber and carrot
  • Tzatziki, leftover roast meat and salad
  • Cream cheese, cranberry sauce, cucumber, lettuce and turkey
  • Try spreading sandwiches with cream cheese in place of margarine or mayonnaise
  • Roast beef, coleslaw and cheddar cheese
  • Ricotta mashed with sultanas, grated carrots and cinnamon
  • Chopped chicken mixed with light sour cream, celery, spring onion and sandwiched with cucumber
  • Pesto mixed with cream cheese and topped with chicken or ham, and finely chopped capsicum
  • Jazz up the usual salad sandwich by making rainbow rolls. Cut the top off a bread roll and hollow out, line with a slice of ham before layering with your child’s favourite salad ingredients and grated cheddar, replace the top and wrap up for the lunchbox
  • Make your usual cheese sandwich a little more fun by using cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes
  • Try using different types of cheese in sandwiches, Swiss-style, mozzarella, ricotta and cream cheese are really delicious alternatives to the usual cheddar slices.

Lunchbox success

Check out these top tips for a successful lunchbox:

  • Try to encourage your child to make decisions about what they eat and chat with them before preparing their lunch
  • Think about what your child likes to eat at home and try to translate that into a lunchbox option
  • Foods should be simple and easy to prepare, ready to eat and appetising after several hours storage in the lunchbox
  • Foods such as sandwiches can be prepared the night before or on the weekend, frozen, then taken for each day’s lunchbox
  • It is important to keep offering healthy lunchbox choices in a variety of ways, as children learn to eat what is familiar to them.

Making sure it doesn't come home

Many school children bring their lunch home with them at the end of the day, which can be frustrating. There may be a variety of reasons why your child does not eat all the food in their lunchbox. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • The lunchbox style: your child may have an issue with their lunch container. They might prefer a brown paper bag or want the latest fashion in lunch boxes to be like the other kids. It may be difficult for them to open
  • Boredom: try to pack a different lunch every day. For younger children, cut the sandwiches in different ways to add interest: for example triangles, squares or strips. You could even use one slice of white and one slice of brown to make a ‘zebra’ sandwich. You could even add a little message from you in their lunchbox to brighten their day, and their lunch if they're not going to be happy with what you snuck in
  • Too dry: if they say the filling is too dry, try leaving a sandwich uncut. Some fillings like dips or cream cheese may stay fresher this way. If your child's appetite seems small, offer smaller servings. For example, half a sandwich might be more appropriate than a whole one
  • Make other meals count: if your child hardly eats anything from their lunch box despite your best efforts, try to at least ensure they have a nutritious breakfast and dinner that includes a serve of dairy at each meal occasion. Trust that your child will eat when hungry.

Lunchbox food safety

In most cases, food is stored in lunchboxes for several hours, so the lunchbox needs to stay cool. Food safety suggestions are outlined below:

  • Pack the school lunch in an insulated lunchbox and include a small freezer brick or freeze a flavoured milk and pop it into the lunchbox to keep food cool. (A thermos will keep foods such as soup and pasta hot.)
  • Frozen milk not only helps to keep the lunchbox cool but if packed with a spoon can be eaten as a slushie at lunchtime
  • Follow hygienic food preparation methods. Before preparing your child’s lunch box, always wash your hands well with warm soapy water. Make sure all chopping boards and utensils are clean and dry. This is especially important when food will be stored in the lunchbox for many hours before eating
  • Prepare lunches the night before and store in the fridge or freezer
  • Waxed paper can be a better option for wrapping than plastic. It’s easier for children to manage (and less polluting)
  • Always follow the ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates and storage advice for dairy products
  • Prevent sandwich fillings from drying out by leaving them uncut. Some fillings such as dips and cream cheese may stay fresher this way
  • UHT milks are a great option to include in the lunchbox as they don't need to be kept cold
  • Freeze tubs of yogurt, by lunch or recess time they should be semi-thawed and are a delicious cool snack.