Top tips for a healthier lunchbox

With a large number of Lincolnshire Primary School children taking packed lunches to school, here are some ideas and tips for varied, nutritious and appetising lunchboxes. Ideally you should provide a small, insulated, container with an ice pack, to keep the food cool and safe.

If the sandwiches have to be prepared the night before, they should be stored in the fridge over night. Some sandwich fillings can be frozen overnight - this has the added benefit of keeping the other contents of the lunch box cool during the morning while they defrost.

Take particular care when dealing with high risk foods such as cooked meats, soft cheese, boiled eggs and cooked rice.

Read on for some tips on healthy lunchboxes, and how to reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in the lunches you prepare

Ten top lunchbox tips

  1. Make sandwiches with thickly sliced bread, or choose rolls or mini pitta breads. Go for wholegrain or wholemeal varieties when you can.

  2. Cut down on the amount of butter, margarine or mayonnaise you use.

  3. Pick low-fat sandwich fillings, such as lean meats (e.g. ham or turkey), fish (e.g. tuna), cottage cheese, Edam, mozzarella or sliced banana.

  4. As well as fresh fruit such as apples and bananas, include a handful of grapes, chopped fresh fruit salad or melon pieces, a small box of raisins or a mini tin of fruit in juice.

  5. Rather than drinks that are very high in sugar such as fizzy colas or ‘juice drinks’, go for unsweetened fruit juice, flavoured water or flavoured milk and yogurt drinks.

  6. Cut down on crisps which are high in fat and choose plain popcorn, breadsticks or dried mixed fruit (without added sugar) instead.

  7. Replace cakes, chocolates and biscuits, with scones, currant buns and fruit bread.

  8. Don’t forget to include some vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, sticks of carrot, cucumber, celery or peppers.

  9. Remember to put some salad into sandwiches. Once a week, why not go for a colourful mixed salad instead of a sandwich.

  10. Try to vary what you put in your child’s lunchbox. This won’t just help make their lunches more interesting, but a varied diet is important to give children all the nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.

Tips for cutting down on fat

Have more:

  • Bread, such as mini pitta breads, bagels and chapattis (wholegrain or wholemeal varieties where possible).

  • Plain popcorn, breadsticks, dried mixed fruit (without added sugar) and unsalted nuts.

  • Scones, currant buns, fruit bread and semi-sweet biscuits such as digestives.

  • Deep-based pizza, pasta and rice salad (brown or wholegrain varieties where possible).

  • Low-fat sandwich fillings, such as lean meats, including grilled chicken, ham, beef, low-fat sausage, fish (e.g. tuna), boiled egg, cottage cheese, Edam, mozzarella, reduced fat houmous or sliced banana.

 Have less:

  •  Butter, margarine, mayonnaise.

  • Crisps

  • Cakes and chocolate-coated biscuits.

  • Meat pies, pasties, salami.

  • Meats with visible fat or skin, high-fat cheese.

Tips for cutting down on sugar

  • Rather than drinks that are very high in sugar, such as fizzy colas or ‘juice drinks’, choose unsweetened fruit juice, flavoured bottled water, flavoured milk and yoghurt drinks.

  • Replace some cakes, chocolates and biscuits with scones, currant buns and fruit bread.

  • Instead of sweets and chocolates, give children fresh or dried fruit to snack on. Or try vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, or sticks of carrot, cucumber, celery and peppers.

  • You could try picking a day a week for sweet treats, rather than giving sweets every day.

Tips for cutting down on salt

  • Cut down on snacks that are high in salt, such as crisps and dry-roasted nuts.

  • Replace salty snacks with unsalted or lower-salt or choose fresh or dried fruit instead.

  • Watch out for heavily salted foods such as bacon, cheese and smoked fish. It’s not a good idea to give these to your child too often.

  • Go easy with sauces and pickles because these are usually very high in salt.

If you would like more information about healthy eating, contact the Food Team here at the Council:

Telephone: 01529 414155
Fax: 01529 308394