Eating a healthy lunch can help maintain your energy levels at work, school or study and often the best healthy lunches are the ones you pack at home. Packing a healthy lunch is also a great way to boost the number of recommended daily serves of the food groups you need every day for good health and it can also save you money.
What’s in a healthy lunchbox?
To pack a healthy lunchbox, follow these tips:
1. Include something from each of the five food groups
- grain (cereal) foods- mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa or barley
- vegetables and legumes/ beans
- Fruit – try fresh, frozen or canned in natural juice or water
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes or beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
2. Include a small amount of healthy unsaturated spreads and oils with your lunch, like margarines and oils that are monounsaturated (for example olive and canola) or polyunsaturated (for example safflower and sunflower).
3. Pack plain water to drink, such as tap, spring, mineral, soda and sparkling waters, instead of sugary drinks like soft drink, fruit juice drink or flavoured milk.
4. Limit discretionary foods like cakes, lollies, sweet biscuits and chips. Try to avoid them all together. If you have them, include only occasionally and in small amounts.
5. To prevent food poisoning, keep your lunchbox cool with an ice brick or cooler bag. Our Safe school lunches page provides more useful food safety tips.
Healthy school lunchbox ideas
Looking for inspiration on what to put in children’s school lunchboxes? Try these resources:
For a healthy school lunchbox, pick and mix, something from each group 1 - 6!
Download and print your free copy of the Pick & Mix 1-6 poster from the Victorian Government’s Healthy Eating Advisory Service. It contains delicious and practical healthy lunchbox ideas based on the five food groups. Keep it on your fridge and use as an easy ‘go to guide’ to help you pack healthy school lunchboxes.
Packed with Goodness (Government of Western Australia) is a colourful resource booklet packed with sample lunchboxes, recipes and snack ideas for healthy kids and busy parents and carers.
Or try the Heart Foundation’s Lunchbox Lifesavers – these printable two page resources contain one week’s worth of tasty and healthy lunchbox ideas and recipes for each season (summer, autumn and year-round, winter, and spring).
See below for useful videos and websites to help you make a healthy lunch.
For more great lunchbox ideas, watch these lunchbox demonstration videos:
- Fast Food ‘Can you pack a healthy lunch in two minutes?'
- How to include more veg in your lunch box - Cold rolls
- Swap It and Save! Ideas to save your waist
- Swap It and Save! Ideas to cut waste in your lunch box
- Swap It and Save! Ideas to save money in your lunch box
- How to include more veg in your lunch box - Pasta salad
- Getting more fruit and veg into your day
- Eat less saturated and trans fats
- Choose water as a drink
- Safe school lunches
- Healthy school lunchboxes Pick & Mix 1-6 poster (Healthy Eating Advisory Service)
- Lunchbox Lifesavers (Heart Foundation)
- Packed with Goodness (Government of Western Australia)
- Lunchbox demonstration videos (Flinders University)