Home Page

Healthy Lunch Boxes

Healthier lunchboxes

Go to NHS Choices homepage

Advice for Parents

School meals are a great choice for your child, but if you choose to make a packed lunch for them instead here are some tips for preparing a healthier lunchbox.


What to include in your child's lunchbox

A healthier lunchbox should:

  • be based on starchy carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta)
  • include fresh fruit and vegetables/salad
  • include a source of protein such as beans and pulses, eggs, fish, meat, cheese (or dairy alternative)
  • include a side dish such as a low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt (or dairy alternative), tea cake, fruit bread, plain rice/corn cakes, homemade plain popcorn, sugar-free jelly
  • include a drink such as water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks

The Eatwell Guide shows you how to have a healthy balanced diet and can help you decide what to put in your child's lunchbox.

Find healthy lunchbox ideas at Change4Life.


Lunchbox tips


Keep them fuller for longer

Base the lunchbox on foods like bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. Choose wholegrain where you can.


Mix your slices

If your child doesn't like wholegrain, try making a sandwich from one slice of white bread and one slice of wholemeal/brown bread.


Freeze your bread

Keep a small selection of bread in the freezer. Make lunchboxes more interesting by using different shapes, like bagels, pittas and wraps, and different types of bread, such as granary, wholemeal and multi-grain.



DIY lunches

Wraps and pots of fillings can be more exciting for kids when they get to put them together. Dipping foods are also fun and make a change from a sandwich each day.


Less spread

Cut down on the spread used and try to avoid using mayonnaise in sandwiches.


Cut back on fat

Pick lower fat sandwich fillings, such as lean meats (including chicken or turkey), fish (such as tuna or salmon), reduced-fat cream cheese, and reduced-fat hard cheese.


Ever green

Always add salad to sandwiches – it all counts towards your child's 5 A DAY.



Always add veg

Cherry tomatoes, or sticks of carrot, cucumber, celery and peppers all count towards their 5 A DAY. Adding a small pot of reduced-fat hummus or other dips may help with getting kids to eat vegetables.



Cut down on crisps

If your child really likes their crisps try reducing the number of times you include them in their lunchbox and swap for homemade plain popcorn or plain rice cakes instead.



Add bite-size fruit

Try chopped apple, peeled satsuma segments, strawberries, blueberries, halved grapes or melon slices to make it easier for them to eat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to stop it from going brown.


Tinned fruit counts

A small pot of tinned fruit in juice – not syrup – is perfect for their lunchbox and is easily stored in the cupboard.


Swap the fruit bars

Dried fruit such as raisins, sultanas and dried apricots are not only cheaper than processed fruit bars and snacks but can be healthier too. Remember to keep dried fruit to mealtimes as it can be bad for your child's teeth.


Watch the teeth!

Dried fruit counts towards your 5 A Day, but can stick to teeth so should only be eaten at mealtimes to reduce the risk of tooth decay.


Go low fat and lower sugar

Go for low-fat and lower sugar yoghurt or fromage frais and add your own fruit.



Check your cheese

Cheese can be high in fat and salt so choose stronger-tasting ones – and use less of it – or try reduced-fat varieties of cheese.


Get them involved

Get your kids involved in preparing and choosing what goes in their lunchbox. They are more likely to eat it if they helped make it.



Variety is the spice of lunchboxes!

Be adventurous and get creative to mix up what goes in their lunchbox.