Lunch and snack ideas for back to school

This year’s back-to-school is like no other. Your child could be navigating bubbles and staggered timetables – and for many school lunches will be affected.

Schools will have different ways of managing lunch under guidelines. Some may keep kids in the classroom, others will stagger lunchtimes so the dining hall can be used, possibly with some very early and late sittings.

Whether you’re packing lunches, or snacks to keep your child satisfied between breaks, we’ve put our heads together with Eat Well for Less? It to come up with top tips, ideas and advice.

3 easy tricks for a healthy lunchbox

Kids may know what’s, but they don’t always like it. You won’t win every battle, but these tips could keep their.

Always include fruit and vegetables, even if it’s just cucumber slices, carrot sticks or sweetcorn in a sandwich.

Always include dairy or another calcium-rich food, as kids are building bones, for which calcium is needed. Plain yog hurt with frozen blueberries or granola topping is popular.

Switch from white to wholegrain bread and pasta, to keep kids feeling full throughout the day.

Primary school kids

Variety and interest is key, especially if your child is eating lunch at the same desk at which they have lessons all day. Kids might be sceptical about trying new foods, but Priya advises, “Let them help themselves to meals or make their own lunches from a balanced selection of foods. This can encourage them to eat it.”

Alternatives to the usual ham sandwich

A pasta pot is a popular choice – simple tomato sauce, grated cheese and peas, or another veg-packed sauce such as broccoli pesto. Cold potatoes (not going so far as to call it a ‘salad’) are good, especially if the skins are left on for a boost that will help keep kids feeling full. Serve them with a good source such as a boiled egg, cold chicken drumsticks, tuna or smoked mackerel. Crisp pitta chips are a crunchy cross between a sandwich and crisps – dip them in hummus or raita.

If a sandwich is still the most practical option, vary fillings: hummus and grated carrot, tuna and sweetcorn, leftover roast chicken with pesto, or simple sliced boiled eggs and tomato. Leftover cold meatloaf or meatballs also make a surprisingly good sandwich.

Hot packed lunch ideas

You can pack many things into an insulated flask: soup, of course, but also veggie curry, bean or lentil stew and chilli con carne. Making slightly more dinner than you need, so they can have leftovers for lunch, saves time too. Pre-heat the flask with boiling water for 5–10 minutes before filling it with piping hot food and it should stay hot for around 4 hours.

Monday treats

Get kids baking with you on Sunday and they’ll be eager to eat the results on Monday.

Your home bakes don’t have to be sugary – cheese muffins and wholemeal cheese scones make an excellent change from sandwiches, nut-free flapjacks can be made with a limited amount of added sugar and a dose of fibre, as can banana muffins.


If lunchtimes and break times move around, children may be more reliant on snacks to keep them going. Priya says, “Adding meals and snacks can help keep tummies fuller for longer, as can eating higher foods. Choose wholegrain versions of foods where you can, and add fruit and veg and a filling.

“Sugary foods can give a quick boost, but this is short lived, so sweets, chocolate and yog hurt-coated fruit and biscuits will not keep your child going for long.”

With nuts off the menu at many schools, you may have to find and elsewhere. Priya suggests: “Energy balls made with seeds and dried fruit; raw veg strips with hummus; cheese portions with grapes and crackers or oatcakes; cream cheese portions with bread sticks and raw veg strips; dry cereal with sunflower seeds and raisins; or even a simple boiled egg.”