Thinking of healthy and exciting packed lunches can be a daily challenge – especially if you can't envisage your child happily trotting off to school with a box of sprouting mung beans, and you're not bowing to the crisp and chocolate demands. Here are some simple, fast and scrumptious ideas to bring new life to the dreaded lunchbox – and remember, the power of novelty is not to be underestimated.


For more lunch inspiration, check out our kids’ budget lunch recipes, kids’ healthy lunch recipes and healthy packed lunch recipes.

What should a healthy packed lunch contain?

According to NHS choices a balanced lunchbox should contain:

  • Starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes or pasta
  • Protein foods like meat, fish, eggs or beans
  • A dairy item, like cheese or yogurt
  • Vegetables or salad and a portion of fruit

Lunchbox sandwich ideas

Cheese and pickle is not to be knocked, but if your kids are tired with the same old sandwich fillings then why not try something new?

1. Omelette in a bun

Omelettes in bread rolls, with a bowl of fruit

Combine two lunchtime favourites for the ultimate mealtime mash-up your kids will love. These hearty omelette rolls can either be served warm for a quick dinner or wrapped up for a satisfying veggie packed lunch the next day. Fill the omelettes with juicy cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta and spinach for a mouth-watering bite. You could add extra salad, if you like, and older children may like a touch of salsa or pickle as well.

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2. You're a star sarnies

Sandwich shaped like a star

Use a star-shaped cutter to stamp out six bread stars from wholemeal bread (freeze the off-cuts to make breadcrumbs). Swirl red pesto through cream cheese and spread onto both sides of the stars. Close the sandwich, wrap and chill in the fridge if making the night before.

3. Green club sandwich

Triple deck sandwich with avocado & tomato

Double decking bread just makes sandwiches more exciting – fact. But it also gives you license to squeeze in extra good stuff. This green club sandwich is high on energy, so kids should feel extra alert all the way through double maths.

4. Super salad wraps

Wraps in a lunchbox with strawberries and grapes

Help your kids to pack in the veggies with these super tasty and colourful salad wraps. We've added lots of crunchy veg for texture, whilst cheddar cheese and hummus give a flavour hit. Alternatively, add tuna, chicken or egg. For more tasty tortillas, try our carrot & hummus roll-ups or chicken roll-ups.

Other variations

Cheese and apple

Mix their favourite grated hard cheese with grated apple, chopped spring onions, a squeeze of lemon and a little mayonnaise. Delicious with wholemeal bread or rolls.

Creamy smoked mackerel

Skin and flake smoked mackerel fillets, then mix with a little mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Spread onto thick wholemeal bread and top with crisp lettuce leaves.

Marmite, cheese and cucumber

Try Marmite, grated cheddar and sliced cucumber in a crusty baguette or ciabatta roll. They'll either love it or hate it.

Alternatives to sandwiches

Want to ditch sandwiches altogether? There are plenty of carby options that kids should love and that can help add a bit of variety into your child's diet.

5. Lunchbox pasta salads

Pesto pasta with prawns

Perk up their lunchboxes with a gorgeously creamy pesto pasta salad. Customise with cooked veg such as peas, green beans and courgettes, as well as an assortment of protein. Chicken, ham, prawns, hard-boiled egg or cheese are all good options, depending on dietary preference. For more pasta inspiration, follow the 'make it for kids' swap on our storecupboard pasta salad; whip up a speedy Mediterranean-style tortellini with pesto & broccoli; or try this flavourful BLT pasta salad for a lighter version of a classic British sarnie.

6. Lunchbox salads

Chicken salad in a lunchbox

For something a little lighter yet still filling and flavoursome, make our speedy coronation chicken salad. This deliciously creamy recipe uses pre-cooked roast chicken pieces along with a grain pounch to save time. Our chicken taco salad and two-bean potato & tuna salad also work really well in the summer months. If you're worried about keeping your child's lunchbox cool, why not freeze an extra bottle of water overnight to work as a cooler – it'll give them a refreshing afternoon drink, too.

Discover plenty more healthy lunchbox ideas for kids.

7. Feasts in a flask

Chicken soup in plastic container

If your kids fancy something warm and comforting for lunch, why not whip them up a tasty soup, a veg-packed curry or even some Swedish-style meatballs? Pack in a wide-necked thermos flask to take to school. With these super-satisfying recipes, they'll be the envy of the class on chilly winter days...

Big-batch chicken soup
Creamy lentil & veggie curry
Super-versatile meatballs

Healthier lunchbox snacks

Cutting out foods that are high in salt and sugar is a huge step to creating a healthy lunch for your child. Simply swapping crisps, sweet biscuits and chocolate bars for foods like unsalted nuts, dried fruit, chunks of cheese or a low-sugar yogurt is a huge step forward. But if you want to get creative, we have plenty of interesting ideas for lunchbox snacks that kids should fall in love with...

8. Fruity sundae

Yoghurt with fruit inside

A sweet and fruity treat for kids needing a boost at lunchtime – yogurt swirled with mashed strawberries and topped with berries.

9. Seeded oatcakes

Wrapped seeded oat cakes

These super easy and moreish oatmeal bites are not only bursting with wholesome flavour, but also only take 30 minutes to prep and bake. Your kids might never ask for shop-bought versions again...

10. Choco-dipped tangerines

Tangerine dipped in chocolate

If your child is known for returning their fruit untouched in their lunchbox then this might be the answer. Who can resist a chocolate orange in fruity form?

11. Spiced kale crisps

Crunchy kale in a bowl

This super-simple veggie snack takes no time to make. Simply drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ras el hanout before popping in the oven

12. Chocolate-drizzled popcorn

Popcorn drizzled with chocolate and an apple

If your child needs a sweet fix, then this quick and easy popcorn makes a great alternative to a chocolate snack bar.

13. Melon & crunchy bran pots

Melon with yogurt topped with bran

Fibre, yogurt and fruit make a winning combination in these scrumptious crunchy melon pots.

14. Welsh rarebit muffins

Cheesy muffins

Get the kids to help make up these yummy muffins, and they can show off the results to their friends at lunchtime.

15. Rhubarb & custard crunch

Rhubarb & custard pots with granola

These are great for a Friday treat. Tuck shops might not be as popular as they once were, but this classic combination of rhubarb and custard never really went out of fashion.

16. Chocolate flapjacks

Chocolate covered flapjack

These bars are packed full of slow-burning carbs that will happily see kids through an afternoon of running around the playground.

17. Homemade granola bars

Three granola bars on a plate

These easy granola bars are great for lunchboxes as the porridge oats, sunflower seeds and walnuts are filling, so they can see kids through a long day of learning.

18. Cheesy egg & noodle muffins

Chopping board of mini egg and noodle muffins

These cheesy egg & noodle muffins are packed full of veg – we used broccoli and carrots, but peas, courgette and peppers also work.

New ways with fruit and veg

19. Rainbow fruit skewers

Rainbow coloured fruit skewers

Creating a pick-and-mix effect can make fruit look much more attractive to kids, even if all it involves is a few extra minutes peeling and dicing an apple or adding in a couple of grapes. It sounds ridiculous, but securing fruit and cheese on a stick can really work wonders when it comes to getting kids to eat their five-a-day, and it takes just minutes to prepare. Whizzing up healthy dips or homemade hummus to accompany vegetable sticks is another great trick, and so much easier than you might think. Here are some ideas...

20. Spiced apple crisps

Crispy baked apple slices

These spiced apple crisps take a bit of time to bake, but couldn't be simpler to make. Try packing them in a paper bag to make them look more like sweets.

Rainbow fruit skewers
Cheese & fruit sticks
Smashed bean dip
Frozen fruit sticks with passion fruit drizzle
Red lentil & sweet potato dip

Discover more lunchbox ideas for kids...

Five easy lunchbox mains
Healthy lunchbox ideas for kids
10 budget ideas for kids' lunchboxes
Quick lunchbox ideas for kids
Kids' lunchbox recipe collection
10 snacks under 100 calories
Best kids' lunchboxes review


If you've got any ideas on what to pack in your child's lunchbox we'd love to hear them – or let us know how you got on with our lunchbox recipes...

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