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Healthy Packed Lunches – Guidance for Parents/Carers & Pupils

This document aims to give clear guidance to parents/carers and pupils on healthy packed lunches. A healthy packed lunch can contribute to the health of children and needs to be consistent with the nutritional standards provided by school meals. Healthy packed lunches will contribute to your child’s growth and development as well as their ability to learn and concentrate at school.

Below are the answers to some questions that you might have:

Why is this guidance being sent out? As parents we would like to decide what to provide in our children’s packed lunches

  • We want to do everything we can to encourage healthy food and drink choices and we want to work with you to do this.
  • Evidence shows that some packed lunches can be less nutritionally balanced compared to school meals.
  • We hope the policy provides a simple guide for parents and helps to clarify confusing food marketing messages found on many packaged foods.

How can I get my child to eat more fruit and vegetables?

  • You could provide your child with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in their packed lunch and find out which ones your child likes.
  • Praise your child for eating fruits and vegetables and try to avoid making negative comments.
  • Changing from packed lunches to school meals may encourage your child to eat a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.
Fruit ideas Vegetables ideas
Canned fruit in natural juice Grate vegetables for sandwich filling e.g. carrot
Fruit pieces in natural or Greek yoghurt Vegetables sticks with dip
Banana or strawberry sandwich Pasta, rice or couscous salad with vegetables
Add apple to green salads Canned vegetables e.g. no added salt corn

What is considered a healthy drink? Isn’t fruit juice healthy?

  • Water and milk are the best choices for hydration and to strengthen children’s teeth.
  • Current UK dietary recommendations outline that no more than 5% of total dietary energy should come from free sugars, which are found in 100% fruit juice, fruit juice containing less than 100% fruit and other sweetened drinks. Many children are currently consuming on average, three times the recommended amount of free sugars, which can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain.
  • The recommendation is that 100% fruit juice or home-made fruit smoothies should be limited to no more than 150ml per day to prevent tooth decay. They can provide a good source of vitamins, minerals and calcium but need to be limited due to their high sugar content.


Healthy drink ideas
Water (can be flavoured with fresh mint and cucumber)
100% fruit juice diluted with 50% water (more tooth friendly when eaten with a meal)
Homemade fruit smoothies (more tooth friendly when eaten with a meal)

Children on school meals receive puddings every day, so why can’t children with packed lunches have sweet cakes and biscuits?

  • School meal puddings adhere to the National School Food Standards, and are fruit or dairy based and contain reduced amounts of fat and sugar.
  • Providing a fruit or dairy based pudding can be a great way of encouraging children to eat more fruit and dairy foods.
Fruit and dairy based pudding ideas
Fruit salad
Tinned fruit in natural juice with yoghurt
Plain custard
Plain rice pudding
Fruit based cakes or crumbles
100% dried fruit or 100%  fruit based snacks (more tooth friendly when eaten with a meal )

Are baked crisps ok in packed lunches?

  • Although the fat content of baked crisps may be less than original types, the salt content still remains high.
  • Too much salt in a child’s diet affects their hydration and can lead to high blood pressure later in life.
Healthy snack ideas   
Rice cakes with cream cheese Plain pop corn
Rice cakes with tomato slices Fruit pieces
Bread sticks with beetroot dip Vegetable sticks

What types of yoghurts are best?

  • Plain, low fat natural yoghurt, Greek yoghurt or fromage frais are best for children to have in their packed lunches daily.
  • Including a portion of dairy in your child’s packed lunch is important for the development and growth of their bones and teeth.
  • Sugary flavoured yogurts such as Muller corners and Frubes contain free sugars, which can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain.
Yoghurt ideas
Natural yoghurt with fresh, dried or tinned fruit
Natural yoghurt with cinnamon and nutmeg
Greek yoghurt with un-toasted muesli
Greek yoghurt with fruit compote
Bircher muesli

How can I reduce the fat and/or sugar content of my child’s packed lunch?

  • Children need a little fat in their diet, but healthier sources of fat are best, such as avocados, fish and hummus. Reducing how often packaged foods are in your child’s packed lunch will help avoid unhealthy types of fat. Many packaged foods such as pepperoni, croissants, brioche buns, sweet biscuits and cakes contain surprisingly high amounts of fat and sugar.
Healthier options  
Hummus with crackers Cream cheese and crackers
Tinned corn and beans mixes Pieces of cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Bagels or English muffins Tinned tuna in spring water or oil and crackers