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School Lunches: the good and the bad

Posted by Aisling Murray on

Making up school lunches for your kids be a challenging thing…..trying to get your kids to eat healthy foods, making sure they are not hungry and ensuring they have the right foods to keep their concentration level up throughout their school day.

Why is what you put in the lunchbox so important?

  • Childhood obesity is on the rise! Irish children as young as 7 are wearing adult sized uniforms to school and it has come to light that 1 in 5 children are classified as obese. Obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes are on the rise.
  • Children need to know the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food. What is a “treat food” and what foods are vital for health. By avoiding unhealthy foods in lunch boxes we are sending the message that foods like fruit, vegetables, brown bread and yoghurts are better for you than chocolate bars and crisps.
  • Deficiencies are avoided by including a range of different foods in your child’s lunch box, from fish, to vegetables, whole grain, fruit and dairy.

As I mentioned earlier, a child’s lunch box should be low in fat, salt, and high in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Lunches should be fibre rich (to avoid constipation), full of fruit and vegetables, contain a dairy option and have lean protein.


Carbohydrates: There should be at least two portions of carbohydrates in a kid’s lunch box, and should be fibre rich. Whole grain varieties of carbohydrates keep you feeling fuller for longer and release energy over a longer period of time.


  • 2 slices of whole grain bread
  • 1 Whole grain medium roll
  • 1 Pitta pocket
  • 1 tortilla rap
  • 2 tablespoons of brown rice, pasta, or couscous


Protein: Include one portion of protein or a protein alternative in your kids lunch box. Opt for lean cuts of meat such as chicken, turkey and fish; these meats are lower in salt and fat than processed hams and bacon.


  • 1 egg
  • A small can of tuna, mackerel or sardines
  • 2 small slices of cooked meat or 1 large slice.
  • 2 tablespoons of humus


Fruit and vegetables: Make sure to include at least one or two portions of fruit and vegetables; this is where your kids will get the majority of their vitamins and minerals from.  To encourage eating fruit cut it into manageable sizes; this will also make the fruit look more appealing to eat. A tip to prevent a sliced fruit going brown is to sprinkle lemon over the sliced part


  • 1 medium Apple, banana, apple, pear
  • 2 small fruits, kiwi, plum, nectarine, peach
  • 10 -12 grapes (small bunch)
  • Fruit salad ½ medium fruit and one small fruit copped up together
  • 1 level tsp of raisins or sultanas
  • 8 batons of vegetables, peppers, carrots, celery
  • 1 flask or bowl of homemade vegetable soup


Dairy: Include one portion of dairy into your child lunch every day. Dairy is essential for your child’s growing bones as it provides calcium it’s so important to include dairy throughout your life but from birth to late teens is when we do the most of our growing.


  • 1 glass or mini carton of milk
  • 125ml pot of natural or low fat yoghurt
  • A matchbox size of cheese (cheddar, edam, gouda)
  • 1 triangle of low fat spreadable cheese


What should go in a healthy lunch box?

A kid’s lunch box should be low in fat, salt, and high in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. All meals prepared for children should help maintain normal growth and development whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. They should be fibre rich (to avoid constipation), full of fruit and vegetables, contain a dairy option and have lean protein.






I will be giving lunch box tips instore on Aug 25th Come along to get tips and tricks to help:

  • Combat fussy / picky eating Nutrition information to help you make better choices
  • Walk away with two weeks of healthy, nutritious lunchbox menu choices
  • Lots of healthy food for your kids to try

This event is FREE OF CHARGE, however with numbers limited; book early to avoid disappointment. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 to book your free place.

Whelehans Nutrition Service

Whelehans nutritional service is a private one to one advice service with our nutritionist Aisling Murray. Aisling’s areas of interest include weight loss management, nutrition education and food intolerance. Our nutrition service offers you the chance to change your life in a positive way by focusing on your overall wellbeing as well as the chance to follow up on your progress. Plans start from only €10 per week.


Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment

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