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Lunchbox inspo: The 8 Ps of a Healthy Packed Lunch

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Nutritionist Liza Rowan lets you know what your kiddo needs to be eating for a healthy, wholesome lunch. And she makes it fun and easy for mamas!

So how was it for you? I mean, your kids going back to school? After a long summer of traveling and catching up with family and friends.

As much as I adore my kids, for me it was a big sigh of relief, having spent all day, every day, with them for 7 weeks, across 3 different continents! I’ve seen Facebook posts of other mums who were totally torn, waving off their little ones to the big (probably not so yellow) school bus.

Whether your kids travel by bus, or you brave the drop-off and pick-up traffic, it’s a long day for them – and typically, this means we don’t see our darlings for eight hours or more, to ‘helicopter’ over what they are eating and drinking – as a nutritionist, I can jest. Seriously though, how our kids fuel for school is so important, so that they have the energy, and mental capacity, to listen, learn, interact, and socialise among other things.

In addition, living in the desert means our kids have the heat, air-con and humidity to contend with – all requiring that extra bit of support nutritionally.


Providing a healthy start to the day with a nutritious breakfast is of course recommended – but when woken up at 6.30am to be rushed out by 7am, not all kids are ready to eat. So, they rely on nutritious snacks and a healthy lunch to get them through their long day. Sound like an impossible task? Before you answer, have a read of my 8 Ps of a healthy packed lunch. If you’re lucky to have a helper, do bring her on board, and between you both, you’ll discover it’s as easy as healthy apple pie!

Here are my 8 Ps to guide you in your mission, while actually saving your some hard-earned dollars. Use these tips to help you plan and prepare packed lunches for your own day also, and not just for kids going to school!


PARTICIPANTS – Get Them Involved
(There’s nothing like emPowerment!)
* If old enough, encourage kids to make their own healthy packed lunch
* If younger, perhaps they can help with prepping, or putting produce into containers

PREFERENCES – Let Them Choose
* Give them a range of options – (for a list of healthy ‘mix & match’ ingredients click here) and let the kids pick their preferences for the week
* They are less likely to criticise their own choices

PREPARE – Cook Extra
* for instance, make extra healthy pancakes at the weekend and use in a surprise ‘sandwich’ for snack
* When chopping morning fruits, include some also for lunch boxes, and add carrots, snap peas, sliced red peppers – the more colourful, the healthier.
* Always cook extra pasta, rice and grains. In the morning toss them with chopped veggies (or fruits – sweet rice dishes are great), with left over cooked fish, chicken etc.


Looking for a healthy savory muffin recipe? Try my ‘Deliciously Healthy’ workshops partner-in-crime, Terri-Anne’s Broccoli Spinach Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Muffins.

PLAN – Save Time and Effort
* When making cookies, muffins, or breads (savoury or sweet), make in large batches and freeze
* This makes for ready-to-grab anytime snack items. Simply take out of the freezer in the morning, and they will thaw by lunchtime

PATTERN – Theme Days
* Kids often like a sense of predictability, but variety in their diet in important. Ask them to suggest fun theme days
e.g. Meatless Pasta Monday; Chicken Sandwich Tuesdays, Fishy Wednesday, etc.
* Variety can still apply e.g. tomato, pesto or cheesy pasta on Mondays, but a theme makes for easier planning on your part


PORTIONS – Lots of Textures and Flavour
* Kids love to snack on different items, so Bento Boxes are ideal – make little portions of various things that they like
* If uneaten, these can be used as after school snacks

PREVENT – Keeping Food Cool or Hot
* Thermos flasks come in all shapes and sizes, and are ideal for keeping food hot
* Use Ice-packs, frozen healthy juice cartons, frozen fruits, to keep foods cool until lunch time


PLAYFUL – Think Colour and FUN
* Use colourful containers, and cutlery
* Give kids a range of colourful fruits and veggies – as crudités, or chopped and mixed with wholewheat pasta, quinoa, rice, or grain of choice.
* Use little notes and riddles (you can get these online) so that your kids look forward to opening their lunch box
* For younger kids, little toys from home can be buried amongst containers. A game of hide & seek with you having to hide!


There you have it, mama! Just 8 easy steps, with lots of delegation 😉 oops, I mean participation. Remember, anything can be thrown in a lunchbox – leftovers are wonderful for making a salad, putting in a sandwich or wrap, or simply placed as-is in a Bento Box. Whether preparing a kid’s lunch box, or your own, it doesn’t need to be fancy or gourmet – simply good, wholesome food, to get through an energetic, joyous day.

For more details on why you’re should pack a lunch for your school going kids, see my article on Fuel for School.

Wk3 - Mix & Match Packed Lunch Ideas - Rev5

Participants, Portions and Playful images sourced via Pinterest.

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