Healthy lunch box ideas: how to make sure your kids love their tiffin

Written by Rasika Thakur Parab
Published: September 7, 2022
Consulting Medical Nutritionist with an experience of more than 14 years.

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A child spends one-third of the day at school, which means they spend a better part in a flurry of activities — learning, playing, chattering with friends and whatnot. To keep up with all this frenzy, they need a lot of energy, especially for better concentration in class. But here’s the challenge — kids are usually fussy eaters and waste no time rejecting food if it doesn’t catch their fancy! 

Deciding the menu can be challenging, but no parent would want their child to go hungry, so they give in and pack what kids want to eat rather than what they should eat. It’s no wonder that a major survey by Leeds University found that fewer than two lunch boxes in 100 were nutritional, and only one in five kids had any vegetables or salad. A lack of fresh food is the culprit here.

Back To School

Now that children are back to school, the daily grind of whipping up a healthy and yummy tiffin has also begun for parents. While you cannot compromise on nutrition in food, you also needn’t disappoint your child. You need to mindfully pack healthy food to ensure that your child gets all the nutrients and micronutrients along with good eating habits. After all, this is the age when children learn quickly, start making choices independently and are influenced by their surroundings and companions. 

Giving healthy twists to junk food is a go-to trick for parents that works, but you also need to teach clean eating as a lifestyle. Here’s what you can try:

Give The Lunch An Appealing Look

Children get attracted to colours, shapes and anything that looks fancy. So, if their lunch appears appealing, they will gobble it up. That’s precisely why some biscuits come in the shapes of animals or stars. Give your child colourful fruits, cut the food into exciting shapes and make it look pretty.

No Repetition, Please!

Kids get bored quickly. If you give them the same kind of food daily, they will lose interest in it. If you provide them with a variety of things for lunch, they will be excited to open the lunch box and devour the stuff.

Snacky, Easy Food

For children, recess is not just for eating. It also means meeting and playing with friends, which would always be their priority. Choosing easy foods that they can snack on would be a good idea. They can finish it up quickly and entirely before hurrying off to play. If a meal is elaborate and cumbersome to eat, they may leave it half-eaten and remain hungry.

Involve Your Kid

Children usually like it when we treat them like equals. To get them more interested in the lunch, ask them to help you decide and prepare it when they are free. Letting them decide doesn’t mean they can have their way and ask for bread-jam or pizza. Give them options from a list of healthy foods. Keep the choices limited so that they don’t get confused or demanding. When giving them a choice, ensure it’s only something you can easily make and afford. But the final decision must be yours, and they must respect it; this will also inculcate in them the virtue of being reasonable and having regard for others. 

You could also take your child shopping and let them pick the food for themselves but from the healthy category. Allowing them to make their lunch could also teach them about being independent and healthy eating.

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Reward Them Occasionally

Once in a while, let them have their way as a reward for good behaviour and eating healthy food. If children are not deprived, they will not be tempted to eat unhealthy food.

Pack A Little Extra Food

Kids usually share lunch with others. Give a little extra food, so there’s enough for them in case they don’t fancy their friends’ food or go hungry because the food was inadequate.

Easy-To-Use Tiffin Boxes

Your kid should be able to open the lunch box easily. If they struggle with it because the lid or the push lock is too tight, they may skip it out of annoyance or be unable to eat. 

The above is just one part of the story. While these tips will make it easier for you to ensure that your child eats the lunch, you need to ensure that it is wholesome and nutritious. The University of Leeds’s research also revealed that while many children do not have any dairy foods in their lunch, meals did not meet the recommended standard for calcium. Many packed tiffins also failed to meet the vitamin A, C, and zinc criteria.

Strike The Right Balance

A balanced meal is crucial for school kids as the wonder years are their growth phase. It’s essential to give them stuff from the five main food groups — grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy. Here’s what a good lunch would look like:

Two protein-rich foods (roasted chickpeas, cheese cubes or mixed bean salad) to promote growth

  • One fruit (Apple, Pear, Banana or seasonal fruits such as Chikoo and Peach) for vitamins and minerals
  • One vegetable (Cucumber coins, Carrot sticks, Radish stick and so on) for vitamins, minerals and fibre
  • Dairy, including Bournvita Milk, yoghurt or hummus for calcium to ensure healthy bones and teeth
  • One whole grain food such as rice, potato or pasta

Don’t Forget Omega-3

We often ignore Omega-3, a crucial nutrient for brain power, memory, focus, concentration, and mood, and thus, academic success and overall well-being. Make sure you include nuts and seeds (flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds, among others, for example) daily.

Bend It Like A Bento

The traditional Japanese lunch boxes, bento, have gained popularity as they combine convenience with healthy eating. You can add portions of falafel & hummus, raw veggies like baby carrot, cucumber, baby corn and more, fruits, sandwich, and nuts. So, its unique feature is a well-rounded meal neatly packed in a convenient box. The idea behind bento is the 4:3:3 proportion — four parts carbohydrates, three parts protein and three parts vegetables. 

Another speciality of a bento box is that it has separate compartments for different contents and thus promotes the nutritional value of food and is visually appealing. Since all the ingredients will be carefully compartmentalised, your child won’t create a fuss at a shabby-looking lunch box. Entice your kid to eat with funky bento boxes available on the market. Buy a design of their favourite character, sport, or any shape they enjoy. 

While you do all of this, do not forget about hydration. Of course, the child will carry a bottle of water. But you can also include unsweetened fresh fruit juice or a fruit/dairy-based smoothie. Go on, make every lunch box a happy meal for your kid!

Disclaimer: These suggestions are for general information. A child may have specific needs in terms of nutrients. Thus, consult a professional dietician or doctor for the right foods.

Leeds, U. of. (2020, January 8). Children’s packed lunches lack nutritional quality. University of Leeds. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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