Expert Opinion

Preparing a Nutritious Lunchbox

  1. How do I make sure that I am packing a balanced lunch for my child?

To pack a nutritionally balanced lunch focus on foods that contain the 3 macronutrients – protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats.

The amount of protein that a child needs changes depending on their age and gender – this is a good reference to see what your child’s protein requirements are. Some healthy protein sources include lean meats like chicken and beef, boiled eggs, nuts & seeds. Dairy also provides protein.

Sources of complex carbohydrates include whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, wholemeal bread or pasta, sweet potato, and other vegetables. Legumes, like chickpeas and lentils, provide complex carbohydrates as well as protein!

Healthy sources of fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, and olive oil.

  1. Are there any foods that I shouldn’t be putting in my child’s lunchbox?

I would recommend against packing high-sugar foods and juice in a child’s lunchbox. Minimise things like lollies, store-bought biscuits, and juice boxes, as they fill a child up without providing any real nutrients.

Packing homemade sweet treats, like my Nut Free Bliss Balls, that are delicious but also filled with essential nutrients that help keep blood sugars balanced, is a great way to include enjoyable and nutritious food.

  1. Where is it important to invest and where can I save when it comes to packing a healthy lunchbox?

Unfortunately, healthy food isn’t always the cheapest, but there are ways to pack a healthy lunchbox without breaking the budget. Here are some of my top tips:

  • Buy in-season produce: Produce that is in season is cheaper and tastes better!
  • Make your own snacks: Buying pre-made snacks can be expensive, so if you have the time to make them yourself it will save a lot of money and means you can control what ingredients go into the food you’re giving your child – a budget and health win!
  • Use legumes: Legumes like chickpeas are high in protein and are also incredibly cheap. Use chickpeas to make hummus with veggie sticks, make oven-baked crispy chickpeas as a high-protein snack, or mash them up with some mayo to spread onto a sandwich or wrap.
  • Look for reduced-price stickers: When you’re at the grocery store, keep an eye out for reduced-price chicken and meat. You can cook it up that day to add to lunchboxes and freeze any excess in individual containers for an easy, meal-prepped protein.
  • Buy large tubs of yoghurt: Rather than buying individual tubs of yoghurt, buy a large tub and add it to small containers. This is not only much cheaper but also better for the environment.
  1. How can I make a healthy lunchbox that my child enjoys eating?

There is always an element of trial and error when it comes to packing lunchboxes. While I always add vegetables to my child’s lunchbox, I make sure to choose vegetables know my child likes, to increase the likelihood of them being eaten. The same goes with fruit, yoghurt flavours, etc.

I love getting the kids involved as well so that they feel they have some control over what is going into their lunchbox. When they feel like they have contributed to choosing their own foods, it is much more likely to be eaten.

  1. What are some of the most nutritious foods that I should consider adding to my child’s lunchbox?

There are some foods that are nutritious powerhouses that I love to add to lunchboxes when I can, including:

  • Tahini: This sesame seed paste is a reliable source of calcium & healthy fats. Use it to make my bliss balls, and tahini cookies, in hummus, or even mix it with maple syrup and cocoa for a healthy chocolate spread.
  • Chia seeds: I love making chia pudding for my kids’ lunchboxes. It’s a delicious treat that is filled with plant-based omega-3 (healthy fats), fibre, calcium, magnesium, and protein.
  • Tuna: Tuna is not only a major source of protein but also provides omega 3.
  • Broccoli: known as a ‘superfood,’ broccoli is high in antioxidants, calcium, magnesium and so much more.
  • Oat milk: Instead of opting for a juice or sugary drink, I love to include an oat milk, such as Nature One Dairy’s GoKids Oat Milk, into my children’s lunchbox. Oat milk is a good source of protein, fiber, calcium and riboflavin.

About the author

Sarah Bell is a Nutritionist and healthy recipe developer. Being a mother of 3, Sarah is passionate about pediatric nutrition and turning fussy eaters into well-rounded eaters. She loves creating family-friendly recipes that are easy to make and taste delicious.
As a Nutritionist, Sarah knows the importance of gut health to our overall health and wellbeing. Because of this, she loves creating recipes using wholefood ingredients that promote good gut health and that are free from refined sugars.