Tips for planning school lunches

It’s true that kids perform and better at school full tummies, but it’s also true that this sounds easier to achieve than it is!

Producing a lunch box every school day that is not only healthy but also has things in it that will actually be eaten is a task that requires some forethought and effort. While the kids think that food somehow miraculously appears in the pantry and fridge to be popped into the lunch box, we all know there is much more to it than that. When the lunchbox comes home untouched (except for the sweet stuff) it can be frustrating.

The components

Planning for the week ahead will help ensure variety, a healthy balance, and hopefully food that is happily eaten. Although your kids will tell you everyone else has a lunchbox groaning with chips, flavoured milk and other sugar laden treats, this is assuredly not the case! There are 5 main components of a well balanced lunch:

The main item – this is the one that will provide the main ‘bulk’ for the day. Traditionally this was a sandwich but luckily you can now mix it up a bit. Cut it in to smaller serves to encourage them to eat a bit of this at morning tea time. This will fill them up a bit and also mean they will not get ‘bored’ with a large serve. The main item will likely include all the good stuff such as grains, protein and some vegetables.

Here are some great ideas for the lunch box main event:

Fruit, veges and nuts – some children prefer it if the fruit is cut, others like to tackle a whole apple, mandarin or banana. Do what they are most likely to eat! Vegetables can include cucumber, carrot, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, and celery. If your school allows nuts you could try peanuts, cashews, pistachios and brazil nuts (these contain selenium – a trace element New Zealand soils lack).

A treat – muesli bar, muffin, biscuits, home baking

Protein – essential for so many of our body’s functions  there are many ways you can get extra protein in to their lunch:
• Hard-boiled egg
• Yoghurt
• Cheese
• Tuna

Planning is winning

Planning out the week ahead will help ensure your child has enough food in their lunchbox each day without you having to do a quick early morning dash to the dairy. If they have something on at school such as sports day, pack a bit more of everything.

Download this handy planner and map out the week, noting what you will need to get from the supermarket in the column on the right. Repeating the planner on a weekly or fortnightly routine will further reduce the time you spend planning and shopping.

author robynWritten by Robyn Cody

Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments. 

Favourite motto to live by: “This too will pass”


  1. Bevik1971 02/05/2019 at 10:44 am

    It can get quite difficult as our 6 year old is dairy and gluten free – so wheat and yoghurt etc are out. She won’t eat coconut yoghurt or similar either. We generally toast a gluten free bun or bread (as I don’t think its very nice untoasted) with ham or roast beef etc for the filling, 2 pieces of fruit (or 1 piece and a fruit cup, not jelly just fruit and natural fruit juice), some organic crackers or rice bread, sultanas or dried fruit, carrot sticks with peanut butter etc

  2. Mands1980 30/04/2019 at 8:34 pm

    I love this article including the handy chart to print to plan my week. School lunch are such a mission in our house. I always love the new recipe ideas it’s really helpful when you get stuck with the same things. Over winter the kids can have pie warmer so some of these things home made and put in the warmer will be great and yummy of course.

  3. Shorrty4life1 29/04/2019 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you for the helpful hints and tips. I love the idea of fruit and nuts I always forget about nuts eh the kids would love that in their wee containers. I sometimes find different fruits especially the good ones so expensive it’s so not fair like how are we meant to keep healthy and keep our kids healthy. At my kids school for term two and three they have hot food Tuesday where every Tuesday they heat hot food for all the children in the school of you bring something for them to heat up. Super cool idea coming int the colder seasons.

  4. Micht 29/04/2019 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you for a great article..i am one of those mums who struggle for new ideas for the lunchbox…this has given me great ideas…will download the planner too… thanks so much!! Cant wait to get started…this year is going to be exciting..

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