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Healthy Lunch Tips for Parents

A healthy lunch box should include a wide variety of foods

The lunchbox should include at least one portion each of

  1. breads and cereals
  2. fruit and vegetable food groups
  3. dairy products
  4. meat or an alternative (see examples below)

Try not to offer the same foods on consecutive days
Make an effort to add interest to the lunchbox e.g. different types of bread – pitta bread, bagels, wholemeal rolls
Fluids are important for children – up to 6 cups of fluid should be encouraged daily – remember to avoid sugary and fizzy drinks.

Fun ideas

  • Use biscuit cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes
  • Put juice drinks in the freezer overnight and as the day goes on it will thaw out and be cold and slushy
  • Theme a lunchbox on a different country e.g. Italian – add a pizza slice, Mexican – fill flour tortillas with a filling of your choice
  • In the summer, salads are light and refreshing and full of essential vitamins and minerals.

To help you get the correct portion size here’s a list of examples for all the food groups:

1 portion of fruit or vegetable
2 small fruit e.g. plums or satsuma
1 banana or apple
1 bunch of grapes
A handful of dried fruit e.g. raisins or sultanas
Celery or carrot sticks.

1 portion of starchy foods such as bread and cereals

A slice of bread, a bread roll, tortilla wrap, pitta bread
A scone
Slice of deep pan pizza – avoid pepperoni, sausage, spicy meat and double cheese
3-4 tablespoons of rice or pasta

1 portion of dairy

A pot of custard or yogurt
A carton/glass of milk
A triangle of spreadable cheese or 2 cheese slices

1 portion of meat or alternatives

One slice of meat or cheese in sandwich filling
One hard boiled egg, – 1/2 a small can of tuna or salmon
1-2 tablespoons of chickpea spread e.g. hummus – try out as a dip with carrots/celery.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to think of an alternative to snacks high in sugar or fat, here are some other options:

Healthier options to crisps

Washed, cut up raw veg (e.g. sticks of carrot, celery, pepper, cucumber)
Whole raw veg (e.g. cherry tomatoes)
Fruit (e.g. 1 apple, 1 banana, 2 kiwis, handful of grapes, small box of raisins)
Dried mixed fruit (no added sugar)

Healthier options to confectionery

Mini tin of fruit in juice
Fromage frais or yoghurt with crunchy bits
Currant buns, scones, fruit breads
Semi-sweet biscuits (e.g. Digestives)

Healthier options to fizzy drinks

Unsweetened fruit juice
Fizzy water or flavoured bottled water
Milk, flavoured milk or low-fat milkshakes

Make sure it’s clean and safe

Lunchboxes and drinks bottles are potential breeding grounds for germs. They should be taken home, cleared out and washed with warm soapy water everyday. A good tip is to make the lunch the night before and keep the lunchbox in the fridge overnight so they start the day really cold. Don’t re-use products such as yoghurts or cheese that have not been eaten the day before as they are likely to have been out of the fridge for too long.


Some useful websites for information regarding healthy eating for children, recipes and food safety information are:
www.healthinfo.ie                   Health PromotionUnit
www.bordbia.ie                      Bord Bia
www.bim.ie                             Bord IascaighMhara
www.irishheart.ie                   rishHeart Foundation
www.ndc.ie                             National Dairy Council
www.safefoodonline.com     Safefood, Food Safety Promotion Board
www.fooddudes.ie                 Healthy Eating Programme
www.coeliac.ie                      Coelic Society of Ireland
www.diabetesireland.ie        Diabetes Association

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