Finding new healthy lunchbox ideas for children to eat that keep them happy and satisfied is challenging for parents, but it is possible!
Ditch those unhealthy packaged foods and follow our wholesome and yummy alternatives for the best school lunch ideas NZ-wide. You’ll not only save money at the grocery store, but you’ll be providing your children with plenty of energy and nutrition for growth and development.
We suggest you prep food the night before to free up those busy school mornings.
Yummy must-haves for packed school lunch boxes
Feeding kids with quality sources of carbohydrates, fat, fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals is important for a healthy diet. Choose foods from the following food groups for balanced kids lunches:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain bread and cereals
- Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, seeds, and nuts
- Healthy fats such as avocado and hummus
Kiwigarden’s fruit and veggie packs are a great kid-friendly lunch box idea. Simply pop in our crunchy Hawke’s Bay apple slices, juicy peas & sweet corn, or cheesy carrot bites for a daily serving of fruit and veg.
Or, add our fun Greek-style natural yoghurt drops paired with a wide variety of fruits, such as berries, banana, passionfruit, and gold kiwi. These healthy lunchtime treats are sugar-free and contain probiotics for healthy tummies. Sliced cucumber and celery sticks sprinkled with sea salt or mild spices and a homemade dip also make great lunchbox ideas.
Homemade slices, biscuits, cakes, muffins and bliss balls are great healthy lunch box ideas that are a fun, sweet or savoury snack to make as a family. Or prepare some no-bake granola bars ahead of time packed with healthy seeds, oats, grains, natural peanut butter and sweetened with honey.
Check if your school has restrictions on lunch food
Many schools have policies to reduce the risk of accidental exposure to food-based allergies. These foods include peanuts, dairy, gluten, and egg.
Some schools have a zero-waste policy, so consider purchasing bento boxes with multiple compartments to reduce plastic usage.
Involve your kids in preparation
Getting your kids involved in lunch prep can help introduce picky eaters to new foods and teach them the importance of nutrition.
Browse popular recipes online for great school lunch ideas and start creating weekly meal plans together. Then place some ingredients on the kitchen table and let each child brainstorm their own healthy lunches.
So how do you get your little ones interested in eating a healthful lunch? Start using the same ingredients you ate for dinner or a big weekend breakfast. For example, you could transform leftover rice, vegetables, cream cheese, and fish into a delicious sushi-style lunchbox-ready meal.
Asking your child to eat one new food a week will also expand your lunchbox recipe options.
Food safety tips
It’s no secret that food safety is of high importance when preparing school lunches for your children. Putting an ice pack or a small container of frozen water inside the lunchbox will ensure food stays cool, especially during summer months. Any leftover food that your kids didn’t eat should be thrown out at the end of the day.
Make sure to thoroughly clean containers and lunchboxes after each use with a mix of hot water and dishwashing detergent.
Tried-and-tested school lunches
Sandwiches and wraps
Ditch the traditional salad sandwich with soggy lettuce and a slice of processed meat. Instead, add variety to your kids’ sandwiches! Use different types of bread, such as rolls, bagels, focaccia, pita bread, or tortillas, to keep it fun. Use butter sparingly; a small amount of natural almond or peanut butter, ricotta or mashed avocado are great substitutes packed with healthy fat.
You can fill these tasty sandwiches in five minutes using leftovers from last night’s dinner. Pop in some extra protein and veggies to the lunchbox, like peeled baby carrots with a hummus dip.
Some sandwich ideas:
- Curried egg and ham wrap
- Ham and cheese pinwheel
- Pizza pockets or pizza kabobs
- Spicy lamb or chicken wrap
Vegetarian sandwich variations:
- Cheese quesadilla
- Almond butter and jam sandwich
- Baked falafel with edamame beans
Pasta and Salads
You’ll have an appetising and health-filled addition to your child’s lunchbox in under 10 minutes using leftovers.
Try these pasta and salad recipe ideas:
- Cold pasta and chicken salad
- Potato salad with bacon
- Rice salad
- Tuna and hard-boiled eggs
- Nacho salad with tortilla chips and mango
- Noodle salad with olive oil, sugar snap peas, and baby corn
- Pumpkin, feta, and chickpea salad
Spread marinara sauce or hummus, shredded mozzarella cheese and your kids’ favourite veggies on halved pita breads. Then add one or more of the following toppings:
- Chopped deli meat
- Black olives
- Halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- Sliced raw/marinated/cooked red bell peppers/capsicums
- Shredded carrots
- Sun-dried tomato
- Feta cheese
Create skewers with fruit from all colours of the rainbow for your child’s lunchbox. They’re visually attractive and provide a wide range of nutrients.
Children eat more fruit when it’s cut into smaller portions. Shop in-season grapes, strawberries, melon and pineapple, and chop them into ready-to-eat bite-sized pieces. They’re great paired with a filling sandwich and yoghurt, carrot sticks, nuts, cheese sticks or cottage cheese. Add french toast bites with maple syrup or a small handful of raisins or dried fruit to their lunchboxes for an extra sweet treat.
An easy frittata recipe begins with six large eggs, ¼ cup of milk, and two cups of vegetables. Add meat and cheese to ensure you have an item from each food group.
Switch up the flavours with:
- Sun-dried tomato, baby spinach, green pesto, grated cheese
- Sliced ham and roast potato
- Chorizo, grape tomatoes and olives
If you have difficulty getting your children to drink water, consider alternative ways to keep your kids hydrated:
- Fruit-infused water (e.g., lemon, cucumber, orange, berries)
- Homemade fruit smoothies
- Plant-based milk
- 100% fruit juice (in moderation and without added sugars)
- Coconut water (natural, without added sugars)
- Homemade vegetable juice (e.g., carrot, beetroot, spinach)
Shop Kiwigarden’s Delicious Lunch Box Ideas NZ-Wide
Shop online with Kiwigarden for nutritious nibbles made from the freshest New Zealand ingredients that taste great. View our blog page for more kid’s lunchbox recipes and ideas. When you create these tasty recipes, you’ll provide their growing bodies with the nutrients and energy they need. Get free shipping on all NZ orders over $35, and pay just $9.50 for orders to Australia over $50.