School packed lunch inspiration

Bin the soggy sandwiches and get inspired with our healthy, speedy and scrumptious school packed lunch ideas.

Lunchbox collections

Thinking of healthy and exciting packed lunch fillings 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.

Healthy and happy

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

Try something new

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?

Omelette in a bun

Omelettes in bread rolls, with a bowl of fruit

Combine two lunchtime favourites for the ultimate mealtime mashup 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 mouthwatering bite. You could add extra salad if you like, and older children may like a touch of salsa or pickle as well. 

You're a star sarnies 

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

Green club sandwich

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. Lesley Water's sandwich filler ideas are also a great way of adding extra variety by getting creative with simple ingredients.

Super salad wraps

Salad wraps and strawberries in colourful lunchboxes

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.

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.

Sandwich swap 

Want to bin the sandwich 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.

Pasta perfection

Pasta salad in a lunchbox with extra ingredients in bowls

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 the store cupboard 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.

Healthy bites

Coronation chicken with grains and salad in a pink 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 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.

Feasts in a flask

Chicken soup in a bowl and lunchbox with spoons

If your kids fancy something warm and comforting for lunch, why not stir them up a tasty soup, a veg-packed curry or even some Swedish-style meatballs. Pack them 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-verstatile meatballs

Crisp and chocolate swaps

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...

Fruity sundae

Summer fruits and yoghurt in a lunchbox

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

Fruity sundae

Seeded oatcakes

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...

Seeded oatcakes

Choco-dipped tangerines 

Tangerines half-dipped in chocolate, in a lunchbox

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? 

Choco-dipped tangerines

Sweet potato crisps

This super-simple veggie snack takes no time to make. Thinly slice a sweet potato and roast in olive oil – no added salt is needed. 

Sweet potato crisps

Spiced apple crisps

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.

Spiced apple crisps

Chocolate-drizzled popcorn

Popcorn with chocolate drizzle, and apple half in lunchboxes

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

Chocolate-drizzled popcorn

Melon & crunchy bran pots

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

Melon & crunchy bran pots

Welsh rarebit muffins

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

Welsh rarebit muffins

Rhubarb & custard crunch

Rhubarb & custard cream topped with bran crumble, in two pots

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.

Rhubarb & custard crunch

Chocolate flapjacks

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

Chocolate flapjacks

New ways with fruit and veg

Rainbow colour arrangement of fruit on sticks

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 5-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...

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...

5 easy lunchbox mains
Healthy lunchbox ideas for kids
10 budget ideas of 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...


Comments, questions and tips

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12th Aug, 2018
My son never eats sandwiches. He is allergic to egg so he finds them too dry and doesn't eat cream cheese. I have found that cooking a couple of chicken drumsticks the night before, cooling them then putting them into his insulated lunchbox goes down well. He gets carbs from his small bag of crisps and biscuit (I know I'm a terrible parent and going to hell!) and the rest of his lunch is fruit so fairly balanced. I can be more creative with adding fruit and veg to his meals when I'm cooking the evening meal. I season the chicken with the Polish vegata seasoning, make a chicken seasoning mix from a recipe online or some paprika and garlic, anything your kid likes. I just have to be careful about not giving him anything with nuts as like a lot of school's his has gone 100% nut free.
1st Mar, 2017
Does anyone ever watch NHK if you have satellite if so look down the news channels, yes its from Japan but in English, there has been some great programs on Bento boxes see that and your find how this has all come about, but its a big thing in Japan and they theme there boxes each day, and Bento box can be got at railway stations and most supermarkets and food outlets. But make there meals fun, marmite and cheddar cheese is great but please leave out the cucumber. OK GREEKNUT
squishysummers's picture
28th Jan, 2017
can't wait to make these for my two beautiful daughters! :-) XXX
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