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School Lunches: Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Aisling Murray on

Healthy Eating

with Aisling Murray from Whelehans Pharmacy

There have been a number of studies conducted which indicate that children’s lunch boxes contained too much salt and sugar and less than half of kids lunchboxes contained no fruit what so ever. In order to give your child a healthier lunch there are a few pointers you could follow.


  • Include a wide variety of foods – like whole meal, carbohydrates, dairy, fruit, vegetables and protein
  • Add variety to a lunch box; instead of always going for bread why not include tortilla raps, pitta bread, soda bread or even a small portion of rice, couscous or wholemeal pasta.
  • Keep your kids hydrated; at least 6 glasses of fluid a day is advisable. Make sure to include milk and water the majority of the time. Kids can also benefit from juices but ensure not to give these with lunch everyday as they can contain high levels of sugar (natural sugar).
  • Keep protein choices as unrefined as possible by including fish, chicken, turkey and eggs. Packet ham, luncheon meats and salami can be full of salt and children in Ireland are now eating twice the RDA (4g) of salt daily which is leading to complications later on in life such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Keep an open mind; get your kids to try a wide variety of different foods when they are off school so you can change their lunches more often. Foods you could try include peppers, cucumber, raw veggies (cut into batons), eggs, tomatoes, kiwi, fish, onion, spinach, melon. These foods may not seem highly unusual to adults but I bet when you were a child you disliked at least one of the foods from the list. These are some of the most beneficial foods and a lot of them are disliked by children. So add them in at meal times and introduce your child to more variation. Kids need to try certain foods a few times before accepting them.



  • Give your child confectionery or “junk food” as part of their lunch. When attending school, these foods should not be allowed but at home they may be. Only keep these foods for rare occasions or as treats.
  • Force your child to eat a particular food they may not like, this can create a negative feeling for the child towards that food as they age. Likewise do not punish your child for not finishing a meal or eating all the contents of their lunch box.
  • Limit drinks like flavoured milk, smoothies, diluted sugar free squash and unsweetened fruit juice (Robinsons® fruit shoots). Drinks that should never be given to you kids include fizzy drinks, sweetened fruit juices, yoghurt drinks (Actimel®) and energy drinks (believe it or not I have seen kids drinking these)
  • Don’t pass on your dislikes to your children. Some parents can make it very apparent they don’t like a particular food and this dislike can be passed onto their child. For instant if you don’t like fish you may not include it into your child’s diet and you may say things like “I hate fish” or “Fish is disgusting”; your child can take this in and form a dislike to a particular food because of your opinions.

 Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Plans start from €10 per week. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment


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