WITH kids heading back to class, parents are once again faced with the task of packed lunches.

You'd be forgiven for thinking they're a minefield – a careful juggling act between what your little one actually likes and food that'll give them a nutritional boost.

Luckily, registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert is here to help – and has reams of healthy snack and lunch suggestions to ensure you'll never have to wrack your brain on a school night.

As part of The Sun's Back To School series this week, we're here to help you and your child ease into the new school year in the best possible shape, physically and mentally.

From tackling nits to the signs and symptoms of nasty bugs, clocking mental health issues early and knowing your way round childhood vaccinations, we have you and your family covered.

The Sunday Times bestselling author of The Science of Nutrition told Sun Health that a packed lunch made at home can actually give you a lot of choice over the foods and ingredients your tot eats, meaning it can be both healthy and delicious.

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"The key to a healthy packed lunch is variety and getting the right balance of foods to provide children with all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy," Rhiannon said.

Your child's lunch is especially important as it'll give them the energy and nutrients to fuel them through an afternoon of classes.

But don't feel like you need to make every one of your kid's lunches from scratch, the nutritionist noted.

"Don’t forget, leftovers like veggie lasagne and pasta bolognese would make a great meal for a packed lunch," Rhiannon said.

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It's also a good idea to familiarise yourself with any food policies your child's school has in place – they may restrict certain ingredients like nuts.


Rhiannon has an Ebook of healthy lunchbox recipes and she shared a few simple tips on how to build a nutritious meal for your little ones.

1. Use starchy foods as a base

Rhiannon suggested you build your child's packed lunch around a filling, starchy ingredient.

"But opt for wholegrain varieties where possible like wholemeal bread, wraps and pitta, brown rice and pasta," she said.

And if you're adding potatoes to your little one's meal, try leaving the skins on for an added dose of fibre.

2. Go heavy on fruit and veg

"Include plenty of fruit and vegetables and vary them throughout the week," she said.

Building on her first tip, Rhiannon suggested adding some sliced vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and red peppers into a pasta dish or sandwich.

3. Add protein or dairy

To round the meal out, Rhiannon advised including some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, dairy or a non-dairy source of protein.

These can go in your sandwich filling or become part of a pasta or rice salad.

"If you choose a dairy alternative, choose varieties which are unsweetened and fortified with calcium," she noted.

4. Pair with a drink

Don't forget to give you little one a drink so they stay hydrated!

According to Rhiannon, "water or milk is the preferable option, but if you want to include a juice orsmoothie, try to limit this to 150ml per day".


If you're still searching for some inspiration for what to feed your child, Rhiannon also shared some packed lunch recipes you could opt for.

Filled sarnie

You could go for a filled sandwich using wholemeal bread, or a bagel, wrap or pitta.

Fill your starchy food with:

  • carrot, hummus and halloumi
  • falafel, grated carrot, lettuce leaves and yogurt
  • leftover chicken or tofu with spinach, tomatoes and hummus
  • hard boiled eggs with cottage cheese with cucumber and rocket

Pasta salad

A wholegrain pasta, noodle or rice salad is great way to use up any

You can:

  • blend vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes and some canned beans to make a sauce packed with fibre and protein
  • make an orzo pasta salad with a garlic kale pesto
  • add canned tuna, canned mixed beans, frozen peas
  • use up leftover roasted vegetables with cheese
    throw in tomato, Mozzarella and Cucumber

Homemade mini pizzas

Making homemade mini pizzas is a great to get your children involved too.No need to spend ages on the dough, you can use a wholegrain pita instead!

You can spread some tomato purée onto a wholegrain pitta bread and top with vegetables like onions, sweetcorn, peppers, courgettes, some chickpeas or cooked chicken or tofu and some grated cheese or slices of mozzarella, Rhiannon suggested.

Simply grill until the cheese is melted, leave to cool and place in the lunchbox in the fridge for the next day

Easy frittata

If your little one is an egg lover, why not whip up an easy frittata.

You can add any vegetables, beans, pulses, meats and cheese
that you like and it's yet another way to put leftovers to good use.

"It uses eggs and milk as the base, then add your childs favourite vegetable combinations to the mix, and bake!" Rhiannon said.

Some variations include:

  • sweet potato, chickpea and spinach
  • pea, mint, feta and courgette
  • broccoli, cheese and tomato

Couscous delight

A wholegrain couscous salad is another good way to go.

Add in some leftover roasted Mediterranean vegetables, some canned mixed beans, some salad leaves and top with a bit of cottage cheese and you're good to go.

Snack happy

As for snacks, there are plenty of healthy and cheap nibbles you can pack for your kid:

  • unsalted and unsweetened Popcorn
  • breadsticks
  • carrot, cucumber, pepper sticks, wholegrain pitta and hummus
  • unsweetened plain yogurt with fruit – you can also go for a non-dairy alternative that's unsweetened and
    fortified with calcium
  • apple slices and cheese
  • rice pudding
  • malt moaf
  • banana bread


Rhiannon also warned that there are some foods you might want to leave out of your child's lunchbox.

She explained: "Often foods that are marketed to parents as being the ‘healthy’ choice are not as nutritionally sound as we might think.

"Companies often use claims such as ‘organic’ and ‘source of calcium’ to lure us in, when they are in fact pact full of sugar."

According to Rhiannon, some common culprits includ:

  1. fruit yogurts
  2. breakfast cereals
  3. children’s snack bars

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"Instead, opt for plain Greek style yogurts, choose oats and try to make snacks at home," the nutritionist said.

That could be nut butter on toast, homemade flapjacks or plain popcorn to, just name a few.

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