Healthy lunches for... teenagers
Encourage older children to eat a balanced lunch full of vital vitamins and minerals. Read our tips for packing a healthy lunchbox that kids will love to take to school.
With more than half of children taking a packed lunch to school – a staggering five billion lunches a year – not to mention the many office and outdoor workers who rely on them, it's clear that lunchboxes make a vital contribution to our everyday lives. That said, thinking up inspiring ideas can be a challenge. 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.
Teenage years are when kids start to exert more control over what they eat, which makes guiding them towards the right choices all the more difficult. It's worth reminding your teenager that eating well not only helps them to perform at their best, but it's key for looking and feeling fab. Our on-trend recipes will not only make their mates envious, but are designed to provide the vital nutrients they need at this stage.
Looking to inspire your kids with some new kit? Read our review of the best lunchboxes on the market that will look cool and keep food fresh until breaktime.
What to include in your lunchbox
Girls, especially, are at risk of being low in this mineral, so include plenty of iron-rich choices like lean meat, dark green leafy veg, dried fruit like apricots, as well as chickpeas, lentils and beans.
Growing kids need this mineral, especially as teens, so include good sources like lean beef, eggs, legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans, Brazil nuts and almonds (taking into consideration your child's school guidelines about nuts) as well as seeds including pumpkin and sesame.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These all-important fatty acids keep the brain well-oiled and help to establish healthy, balanced hormones. Try oily varieties of fish including salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and mackerel. Alternatively, for vegans and vegetarians look to chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts (depending on school guidelines about nuts).
Teens love snacking so pack handy nibbles like homemade popcorn flavoured with chilli or paprika instead of salt or sugar. Visit our healthy snack recipe collection for more ideas.
What to avoid in your lunchbox
Swap the likes of fizzy drinks and squash for yogurt-based smoothies, 100% fruit juice or plain water.
Read our guide for more kids' smoothie recipes.
A note about school food policies
Check with your teenager's school in case there are any foods they discourage or restrict – for example, nuts to safeguard students with nut allergies.
Black bean chimichurri salad
Vietnamese chicken baguettes
Japanese-style bento box
Pizza pasta salad
More healthy lunch inspiration
School packed lunch inspiration
Healthy lunches for kids
Healthy lunches for adults
Best lunchboxes for kids review
Quick lunchbox ideas for kids
This page was last reviewed on 2 September 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
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