School Lunches

Monday 30th August

What a great last weekend before the kids go back to school. Long may it last. One thing that loads of parents ask me about is school lunches! It seems that the sunshine this morning might have been clouded with discussions on what is wanted and not wanted in that lunch box. I found this great thorough report the other day and thought it might help.

I know this is used for kids lunches but I think anyone taking lunch into work would love it. Remember, healthy eating is all about variety – eating different fruits and vegetables, meats and fish and grains every day – experiment! Remember to always go for the low sugar or no sugar option!

School Lunches – The definitive guide from

1)      Find out what your child likes (ask them, make suggestions and ask what their friends have that they would like to try)

2)      Keep varying the lunches

3)      Use your freezer to stock up on standby items like bagels, wraps, pitas etc. and stock your store cupboard with long life sandwich items such as tuna, sweetcorn etc..

4)      Try to home-bake once in a while and freeze muffins, scones etc in usable sized batches

5)      Try to get the child to make their own lunch maybe once a week

The Contents:

What features in the lunch box is entirely up to you and I have broken down suggested inclusions into tables below in the following areas:

1)      The main event:                               A filled pitta, wrap, sandwich, roll, ciabatta, bagel etc. or pasta, rice etc. as below.

2)      Fruit and / or vegetable:               Whole, in pieces or as a salad

3)      Filler:                                                     Extra dairy or carb portion

Make up your own main event by choosing a protein filling, at least one ‘Plus 1’ and then dressing it up from the table below.  Alternatively select a tried and tested filling combo from the table below.

Depending on how long the school day is you may want to include an extra main or filler.  (For recommendations on what is recommended for a healthy lunch see Safe food’s website)

Wrapping Things Up

Using a number of really small reusable containers that will just fit a sandwich or the fruit works better than using one large lunch box where there is a strong likelihood that the crackers will end up mushed into the side of the apple and the contents of the sandwich will decorate the entire box.  Small plastic sandwich bags can be handy and are reusable if you give them a wipe out or a more environmentally friendly option ‘The Paper Lunch Bag’ (by Walsh Packaging, Roscrea) made with greaseproof paper can be reused and recycled.  As with all food the first impact will be visual so try to make the food look as attractive as possible.

The main event: A filled pitta, wrap, sandwich, roll, ciabatta, bagel etc. or pasta, rice etc. as below
(try to steer towards wholegrain varieties if possible)

Pitta Wrap Sandwich Roll CiabattaPanini Bagel Pasta Rice Other Grain Quiche or Savoury Pie Other (3rd table)

Filling for the pitta/wrap/sandwich/roll/ciabatta/panini/bagel etc.
(Make up your own filling by choosing from the following or go with a tried and tested combo from the table below this one)

Protein cooked ham, chicken, chicken tikka, cajun chicken, beef, corned beef, turkey, sausage, rashers of bacon, salami, chorizo, tuna, sliced cheese, grated cheese, (vary type of cheese e.g. cheddar, mozzarella, goats, feta etc), soft cheese, egg sliced or mashed, salmon, hummus
Plus 1 Lettuce, avocado, tomato, sundried tomatoes, onion, pickle, cucumber, beetroot, sweetcorn, watercress, bean sprouts, spring onion, sliced olives, ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers), coleslaw, potato salad
Dress it Up butter, olive oil spread, mustard, mayonnaise, salad cream, relish, chutney, natural yoghurt, soured cream, fresh or dried herbs, chilli flakes, basil or coriander pesto, sundried tomato pesto, salsa, tapenade, hummus, guacamole, bread stuffing (breadcrumbs, butter, parsley, thyme, onion)
Lazy Day! Peanut butter, jam, nutella

Tried & Tested combos for pitta/wrap/sandwich/roll/ciabatta/panini/bagel etc.

BLT:  bacon, lettuce, tomatoPloughmans: cheddar cheese & pickleegg, salad cream, water cress & diced onion
tuna, sweetcorn & mayo

feta, rocket, chopped sundried tomato, red onion & ballymaloe relish
chicken, rocket, mustard mayo, sundried tomato & parmesan
smoked salmon, cream cheese & squeeze lemon
cream cheese, cucumber, sundried tomato, pesto

crispy bacon, tomato, cream cheese, guacamole

grilled chicken, sweet peppers, rocket parmesan & caeser dressing

chicken & stuffing

Pasta, Rice & other alternatives
(Instead of throwing away leftovers, re-use them for lunches the next day)

Pasta Either plain with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking together or with a light coating of a tomato puree sauce.
Increase nutritional value by adding any protein or plus 1 from the list above.
Pasta with peas, parsley, chives, zest & juice lemon, olive oil.
Rice curried rice with raisins, rice with a mix of ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers) etc.
Grains e.g. Couscous / Quinoa / Bulghar Wheat / Made up with with juice of half a lemon or lime or vegetable or chicken stock
Add in chopped and roasted veg e.g. courgettes, peppers, halved cherry tomatoes
Increase nutritional value by crumbling in some cheese e.g. feta or adding some spicy chopped chicken or chickpeas
Quiche Classic quiche Lorraine of ham & cheese or filled with mushrooms, bacon, leeks, onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes etc.
Savoury Pie With similar filing to quiche perhaps on a puff pastry base e.g. left over stilton tart or sundried tomato and goats cheese or caramelized onions and feta
Other Sausage roll, samosas, cornish pastie, soup


Whole Apple, orange, mandarin, satsuma, banana, peach, pear, plum, grapes etc.
Half Kiwi & provide teaspoon
Slice Melon, Watermelon, Pineapple,  any of the above
Berries Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries
Chunks Create a fruit salad with any of the above cut into chunks & provide a fork.  To preserve cut fruits such as apple and banana from browning, squeeze over the juice of a lemon and an orange.
Puree Stewed apple, pears, plums, berries, rhubarb & provide a spoon.
Smoothies Combine fruit, natural yogurt and orange juice (unsweetened)
Dried Raisins, Sultanas, Dates

Vegetable / Pulse

Sticks Carrot , Cucumber, Peppers, Celery & perhaps provide a dip
Mixed Salad bowl containing any of: lettuce, avocado, tomato, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion, pickle, cucumber, beetroot, sweetcorn, watercress, bean sprouts, spring onion, sliced olives, ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers), coleslaw, potato salad, chickpea salad, three bean salad (kidney beans…..),
Pieces Broccoli Floret
Berries Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
Chunks Create a fruit salad with any of the above cut into chunks & provide a fork
Puree Stewed apple, pears, plums, berries, rhubarb & provide a spoon
Dip Raita (sp); natural yoghurt, mint & cucumber, soured cream, tomato ketchup & mayo mixed, sweet chilli dip, hummus, pesto, guacamole
Soup Hot soup in a thermos flask


Yoghurt etc. & other Plain (who eats plain?) with your own fruit pieces or puree added Fruit corners
Petit filous
Rice pudding
Custard – plain or with fruit puree added e.g. stewed apple / rhubarb
Petit Filous (difference)
Scone Wholemeal, plain, fruit or cheesy.  Add butter & jam, lemon curd, cheese spread, pesto, tapenade
Cheese Sliced cheddar, triangle of soft cheese
Crackers / dried bread Cream crackers plain or with butter, jam, soft cheese, cheese slice, pesto, tapenadeKrisp breadRyvita
Soft bread / cakes Banana bread, brioche, mini pancakes, sundried tomato bread, cheese bread, olive bread, waffles.  Add butter & jam, lemon curd, cheese spread, pesto, tapenade
Muffins / Cupcakes Plain or fruit
Cake Dried fruit cake, apple cake, rice cake
Crisps Pitta crisps & dip, pack of croutons
Popcorn Plain popcorn
Biscuits/Bars Flapjacks, Lunchbox oatmeal cookies (as per picture above), Shortbread, Plain cookie
Other Sesame sticks, bread sticks
Lazy Day! shop bought cereal bar / energy bar (if they are not allowed, take off the wrapper and wrap it in parchment paper)

If you are worried about any aspect of your child’s health, contact me on lucy@foodforliving,ie

My programme allows us to rebuild your daily practice of self-care together.


  1. avillagepantry

    This is fantastic! A great reference guide for certain days when lacking inspiration for the lunchbox..Thanks!

  2. henry fries

    Thanks buddy. Good website you got going on here. Got some extra websites to point to with more stuff like this?


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