It’s a struggle to prepare healthy lunches for school, especially when you’re in a hurry. But with a quick guide and healthy lunch ideas, you can whip up nutritious meals your kids will love.
The best part is, you can also convert these into adult lunch portions for work. That way, you’ll be saving time and eating healthily, too! Here are some tricks and tips to help.
What’s a Healthy School Lunch?
Before raiding the kitchen, we need to know what makes a school lunch healthy first. According to the experts of Nutrition Australia Vic Division, healthy lunch ideas contain five core food groups plus water.
These include fruit, vegetables, dairy, protein and grains. The concept is to select one item under each food group to make healthy lunches for school.
This colourful guide has a list of food items that you can put together for a balanced lunch. To make your mornings smooth-sailing, I suggest making a weekly lunch plan in advance.
Also, if you can meal prep some food items or pre-pack them in small snack pouches, then do that, too, to save time.
Easy Healthy Lunches for School
Another good tip for a quick lunch prep is to make one or two food items with all the core food groups covered. Yes, I agree that bento lunches are fun.
But packing one or two healthy food items is a lot faster than, say, five items every day. Here are some healthy school lunch ideas your kids can enjoy in one bite.
Mexican Rice Salad
I love rice salads as healthy lunches for school because you can make them in a flash. Plus, you can toss them with virtually anything yummy, tasty or crunchy.
My favourite would be cooked basmati rice mixed with kidney beans, capsicum, grape tomatoes and avocado. I use olive oil and lemon juice for the dressing.
Then, I pack it with a handful of corn or tortilla chips so the kids can use them as edible spoons!
TIP: When packing, use an insulated lunchbox or put it in a bag with an ice pack to ensure food safety and freshness. Store your chips in a separate snack pouch or container.
Rice Paper Rolls
Here’s an equally tasty alternative to tortilla wraps or crepes. All you need are some rice paper wrapper, cooked vermicelli noodles and veggies your kids love to eat.
These can be carrots, cucumber, capsicum, cabbage or spinach. Prep them into vegetable sticks or shreds to make them easier to wrap and eat.
You need to dip the rice paper in water to soften it, then lay it on a parchment paper-lined board. Next, line up your fillings at the centre, then wrap. You can serve these with BBQ, satay, hoisin or any dipping sauce that you like.
TIP: If you want to make these ahead, tightly wrap each roll in plastic wrap, store them in an airtight container, and refrigerate. These should stay fresh for one day.
Making sushi for a healthy lunch is perfect. But it can also be a bit time-consuming. So, I use bread slices in place of the rice and nori sheet.
I trim off the bread edges, flatten each with a rolling pin, then put my favourite sushi fillings and voila! You now have a sandwich alternative with a Japanese twist.
To keep your sushi together, use strips of seaweed wrapper, dampen one end with water, then wrap it at the centre of the bread roll. You can tie it with chives or spring onions, too.
TIP: Not sure what to put in your sandwich sushi? Try cream cheese, canned salmon and cucumber slices. Or give it an Aussie twist by using Vegemite and cheese slices!
This one is a staple when it comes to healthy lunches for school. That’s because zucchini slices are super versatile. The usual ingredients include grated zucchini and carrots, bacon, cheese and eggs.
But you can always play around with the traditional recipe to make it tastier or healthier. For example, you can replace the grated carrot with sweet potato or pumpkin.
I would throw in cherry tomatoes, corn kernels or leeks, too.
TIP: Another reason I like this lunch idea: I can make a big batch in advance. After baking, I freeze my zucchini slices in labelled containers, then thaw some overnight in the fridge. You can reheat them in the oven or pack them cold.
If you have a box of pancake mix in your pantry, turn it into healthy lunches for school by adding some diced or grated veggies. You can use your foolproof muffin batter recipe to make these as well.
Prep your batter as usual, then pour them in a doughnut muffin tin. Before baking, sprinkle the top with your veggie of choice. You can use frozen ones, too.
TIP: If you don’t have a doughnut tin, use a regular muffin tin. Also, you can replace the veggies with diced fruit to make sweet doughnuts.
Now, a lunchbox is not complete without a sweet treat. And it’s not tricky to prep a healthy dessert for lunch. Take crackles, for example.
Mix puffed rice with some coconut sugar, shredded coconut and cacao powder. Next, add enough coconut oil to dissolve the cacao and combine the ingredients.
Fill a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners, then scoop enough crackle mixture into each cup. Chill it for about 30 minutes and enjoy!
TIP: You can make a large batch of healthy crackles to save time. Just put them in an airtight container, and keep them in the fridge. These should stay fresh for up to 3 days.
I love putting no-bake treats when making healthy lunches for school. They’re easy to make, and you can whip them up even without an oven at home.
Energy or trail mix cookies, for instance, only need a food processor and a knife to make! Just blitz some dried figs, raisins, oats and shredded coconut.
The mixture should lift away from the bowl and have a dough-like texture. When ready, knead in your favourite seeds, dried fruit or nuts, form it into a log, then slice.
TIP: Put the extra cookies in an airtight container, then keep them chilled for up to 7 days. You can freeze them, too, for up to 3 months.
More Tips on Making Healthy Lunches for School
Packing lunches for your kids is not only good for their well-being. It also motivates mums to stay on budget and prep affordable meals.
So, I recommend making this a habit. If you’re a working mum, you can still make this possible. Here are some additional tips to help you out:
- Prep or cook some food items the night before or on the weekend.
- Make extras when cooking dinner. You can pack the leftovers for lunch.
- Collect healthy school lunch ideas that you can batch cook, freeze and reheat.
- Keep your pantry stocked up with healthy food choices that can speed up your lunch prep.
- When possible, use the microwave for reheating to save time and energy.