School lunches

Trying to keep school lunches interesting, and not getting stuck in a rut of the same sandwich every day from September to June, can be challenging. We’re only one month into the new school year and I’m already finding I’m reverting to the old reliables. To counteract this, I decided to root out my Recipe Builder method of food prep, and get stuck into designing one for school lunches. After watching ‘What the Health’ documentary I decided to see how school lunches work dairy, meat and nut (school policy) free.

In our house we predominately follow a plant based, wholefood diet. My gang eats a great variety of veg at dinner time, but I find I rely too heavily on the humble cheese salad sambo for school lunches. After school they’ll most likely get a snack of sourdough or brown bread toasted with some fruit. When you add up the average week there is possibly too much bread and lots of missed opportunities for packing more variety, and higher nutritionally dense foods into their diet.

A well balanced plant based, whole grain lunch will keep your school goers fuelled for the day. Try minimise white breads, which have very little nutritional value, and are stripped of fibre. High fiber, whole grains help maintain a slow and steady release of energy to help them stay focused for the day. Experiment with different veg throughout the week. Don’t presume they don’t like it till they try it, they might surprise you! Veg can taste very different when cooked or prepared in different way. Adding herbs and spices to your roast veg can make them more kiddie friendly too. Try pack in some immune building foods to their lunch everyday to minimise sick days. Carrots, oranges, lemons, mangoes, sweet potatoes, kiwi, berries, onion, broccoli, kale, fermented foods and peas all boost the immune system. Adding spices and herbs like cumin, chilli, fennel seed, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, rosemary and sage also give an extra boost.

You could also use this Recipe Builder for after school snacks ideas. After school snacks needs to be fast and just enough to tide them over till dinner time. If they’ve had bread for lunch try to give them something else for their after school snack, even if it’s oatcakes, hummus and some chopped up fruit and veg.


  • A flask is a great investment to add variety and warm lunch days in colder weather

  • Keep a stock of wholemeal pitta breads and wraps in the freezer

  • Make extra veg at dinner time to pop into the lunches the next day

  • Make a big batch of flapjacks (sweet or savoury) at the start of the week

  • Adding dips like hummus is a great way to get them interested in trying new veg

  • Bring them shopping and get them to pick an experimental veg to try

  • Use a variety of fruit and veg, eat a rainbow of colours, throughout the week

  • Mix some veg in with the fruit for little break

  • Keep a few boxes of oatcakes handy for popping into the little tubs for little break

  • Stick with water, it’s better for them and not as messy if you have a spill!

Print out the above School Lunch Builder and give it a go. It’s a work in progress so you might find when you visit this page again it has evolved!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru