15 healthy lunch ideas for kids
Our healthy lunch ideas for kids incorporate lots of nutritious ingredients. They're also simple to make and will keep little tummies fuller for longer.
Knowing what to pack in children's lunchboxes can be tricky, especially if they're fussy eaters.
It's tempting to fall into the trap of using packaged, ready-made options. Although these seem like the easy answer, they tend to be high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
Keep choices varied, fresh and tasty, high in protein, veg, fruit and fibre, but low in fat, salt and sugar. Lunch is an important point in the school day and should provide at least a third of your child’s daily requirements – without it youngsters struggle to concentrate in the afternoon. Pack plenty of sustaining, nutritious options to make the school day a productive one. Choose fresh and colourful ingredients, chances are that what you make will be more wholesome and appetising.
You don't have to spend too much time prepping either. From crunchy taco salad to pitta pockets, our recipes are easy to make and stuffed full of freshness and flavour. So, ditch the soggy sarnies and try something different.
Coping with a selective eater
- Involve your child in planning and preparing their lunchbox – kids are more likely to try foods that they've been involved in selecting and making. Make this an interesting and fun activity, so that they want to get involved.
- Children are happier choosing from a small range of foods. If your child seems to pick just one or two favoured things every day, this is not unusual – gradually introduce more options but be prepared to be patient.
- Offer a wide variety of wholegrain carbohydrates to choose from. If they don't like wholemeal bread, how about swapping to pasta, rice couscous or quinoa, jacket potatoes, sweet potatoes or try a wrap or pitta bread. Beans and lentils work well too and can be blended into a dip (e.g. hummus).
- Talk with your child about things that they might like to try, or foods that their friends are eating. Invite friends over as an opportunity to engage your child.
- It's normal for children to go through phases of liking and disliking things – it's part of growing up. If one food isn't a hit, perseverance and patience are key. Keep exposing your child to the food (up to 20-30 times) and if they consistently decline, try not to make a fuss over it, just remove it and try again another day.
- Talk with other parents and use their child's healthy appetite as an example for yours to follow.
- Don't use food as a reward – this reinforces the idea that sugary, fatty foods are better options than healthy whole fruit or dairy products.
How much does my child need?
The easiest way to check your child is eating the right amount and achieving a balanced, healthy diet is to compare the nutrition information for recipes and food labels to the Reference Intake (RI). You'll see this term being used on food packaging in place of Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). Many manufacturers show these figures to help you make sense of the information on the label and to help you see how much a food is contributing to your child's daily diet.
RIs are a guide to the amount of energy (kilocalories), fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugar and salt an adult or child may have, but remember, we all vary in size and activity levels so these figures are only a benchmark. Be aware that the figures for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt are maximum amounts.
Guideline Daily Amounts for children aged 5-10
- Energy – 1,800kcal
- Protein – 24g
- Carbohydrates – 220g
- Sugar – 85g
- Fat – 70g
- Saturates – 20g
- Fibre – 15g
- Salt – 4g
Health lunch recipes for kids
It's healthy, it's four of your five-a-day and it's topped with crunchy crushed taco shells. Our chicken taco salad is perfect if you want to get some variety into your child's lunchbox. A smattering of creamy avocado chunks and barbecued chicken upgrades this salad to a next level feast.
Discover more chicken salad recipes.
Looking for something to replace sandwiches? Our easy pitta pockets are the answer. Try pairing them with finger food like our crushed pea & mint dip with carrot sticks, or some snackable spiced almonds. These fuss-free pittas can be thrown together in minutes and are an easy low-fat option.
Check out more stuffed pitta recipes.
Get dipping with our peanut hummus with fruit & veg sticks. This healthy, nutty dip has silky smooth tahini and a pinch of smoked paprika to make your chickpeas pop with flavour. Stir in some whole chickpeas once your hummus is blended for texture. With no cooking involved, this is an ideal midweek lunch for when you're short on time. Fancy trying a different flavour? Discover more easy healthy hummus recipes, ideal for popping into lunchboxes.
Try our hummus recipes for more flavour variations.
Our cheesy mini spinach frittatas are easy for little hands to hold, healthy and packed full of all-important greens. It takes just seven ingredients and a muffin tin to bake these marvellous marbled treats. Not a fan of spinach? Try making a batch of mini butternut squash frittatas at the weekend, ready for midweek snacking.
Perfect for any picnic or packed lunch, check out more of our frittata recipes.
Hearty chickpea falafels, creamy hummus and crunchy red pepper stuffed into pitta pockets makes a simple veggie lunch the kids will want more of. Use shop-bought hummus and falafels if you need a quick fix. If you want to make your own, try our easy falafel recipe with a quick hummus.
Whether shaped in a patty or ball, falafels are always delicious. Check out more of our incredible falafel recipes.
Lunch is all wrapped up with our simple, quick chicken tortilla rolls. Raid the fridge and put together the perfect mix of cheese, chicken and avocado for a midday hunger killer. For a packed lunch, wrap them in cling film and twist them shut to avoid spillage in school bags.
A great alternative to a soggy sandwich, discover more flavourful wrap recipes.
Ensure the kids are eating well with rainbow rice salads, designed with easy meal prep in mind – make the rice base in a batch and divide up for the whole family. Our healthy tuna-topped version provides a protein boost and for more grown-up tastebuds, there's a feta and beetroot variation.
Discover more rice salad recipes.
These pittas burst with flavour as they’re stuffed full of our homemade sweet potato falafels and coleslaw. They make a low-fat, filling yet vegetarian lunch, and each serving comes to less than a pound!
This speedy pasta salad with a healthy tomato and basil dressing counts as three of your five-a-day and is sure to perk up any lunchbox. It's a colourful recipe that blows beige sandwiches out of the water. Top up with rocket and basil for extra greens.
Discover more of our pasta salad recipes.
Give the kids a taste of summer hot off the griddle pan with our lemon & yogurt chicken flatbreads. Wrap up chicken and pepper chunks with a healthy spread of Greek yogurt and a handful of lettuce for a filling, picnic-style lunch.
Rustle up some fluffy homemade flatbreads with our flatbread recipes.
11. BLT pasta salad
This bacon pasta salad is an excellent addition to any lunchbox. It takes only 20 minutes to prepare, and counts for two of your children’s five a day!
This low-fat vegetarian soup will be a winner for everyone as the passata and whole milk gives it a silky-smooth finish. Pop it in a thermos, and kids can enjoy a warming lunch on a cold school day.
For soups perfect for any kind of weather or occasion, check out our soup recipes.
These prawn & salmon burgers are delicious, and healthy too! Rich in omega-3, it's the brain food your child needs to pick them up for an afternoon of learning.
Discover more healthy burger recipes.
Pancakes aren't just a treat for Shrove Tuesday. Make them a weekday staple with our delicious spinach & tuna pancakes. They're healthy, nutritious and full of flavour, packing in three of your five a day.
More like this
Discover more savoury pancake recipes.
15. Pizza omelette
You might think this recipe is a strange combination of foods, but it will be a winner with your kids. It uses the best parts of a pizza but swaps the carbs for protein by substituting egg. Each serving also costs less than £1.25, making it an affordable way to pack your kids' lunches.
Find more exciting ideas for fluffy and filling omelette recipes.
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As many countries urge populations to stay at home, many of us are paying more attention to our diets and how the food we eat can support our health. To help sort out the fact from the fiction, BBC Future is updating some of their most popular nutrition stories from their archive.
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