This is a question that is often asked, especially by parents and carers with a child starting school. It depends on lots of things such as how active they are, what their appetite is like and whether they prefer to sit and take their time eating or to race off to play as soon as they can.
How much to pack can be trial and error when you first pack a lunch box. Start with a morning tea snack and something for lunch. Think about how much your child normally eats when they are at home with you during normal school hours. In the beginning, if you are not sure if they will be hungry, pack extra, shelf stable things that they can always eat when they get home or reuse if they don’t eat, like sultanas, a tub of fruit in natural juice, a carton of UHT milk, some wholegrain crackers or an extra piece of fruit.
Make sure to pack these everyday:
🍞 Something made with wholegrain carbs like a sandwich, wrap or roll, naan, roti, pasta, rice, couscous or quinoa. Carbs give kids the energy they need to make it through the day.
🥕 Vegetables, because most kids don’t eat enough and including some at school is the best way to up their intake. It’s as easy as some cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks or salad in their sandwich. Just a few strips of red capsicum gives you all the Vit C you need for the day!
🍗 Some protein to keep them full like cheese, chicken, tuna, egg or hummus in a sandwich
🍏 Some fruit, either in season fresh, dried or tubs in natural juice.
🚰 A water bottle, as kids get thirsty and water is the best way to keep them hydrated. Freeze it to keep their lunch cold.
For kids who like a bit more at lunchtime pack:
- Some dairy foods like plain milk or plain yoghurt for growing healthy bones and teeth
- Extra fruit and vegetables
- A bigger sandwich or roll
Need some inspiration? Check out the lunch boxes we have packed:
For kids with small appetites or are too busy to eat try a sandwich, fruit, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and biscuits and a water bottle. Cut up sandwiches, fruit and vegies to make it easier to eat.
For kids who are hungrier try a chicken roll, fruit and yoghurt or if they don’t like sandwiches try crustless quiche, bliss balls and veg sticks or fried rice, vegie sticks and a piece of fruit slice.
Lunchbox images supplied by Cancer Council Western Australia Crunch&Sip website.
For lots more inspirational lunch box ideas see our healthy lunch box examples.
If your kids don’t eat much at school and are starving when they get home, make sure after-school snacks are nutritious.
Offer the vegetable component of dinner as an entrée or if you can, bring dinner time forward. Try not to rely on prepackaged snacks from the supermarket that are full of sugar, salt and fat.
Check out our Back to School Snack Solutions guide for all you need for fast, tasty and healthy snacks!
Get your kids involved in planning and packing their lunch box using our interactive lunch box builder that has options for all appetites and taste buds.