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Healthy lunch box ideas: the step by step to choose nutrients for children, adolescents and children under 5 years

The children return to school and for many parents this is a joy because the youngest members of the household will once again experience the benefits of classes in a classroom. Now, children will need more energy to be able to carry out all the activities they have to do and a good lunch box will be their best ally. Therefore, we spoke with nutritionists and specialists in healthy eating to find out how to correctly assemble snacks.

The nutritionist Mónica Bamonde explains that a good lunch box must include “especially healthy sources of carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, cereal bars, granola) and protein (tofu, textured soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts)”. This is essential to cover energy requirements.

Regarding the foods that should be avoided, she narrates that ultra-processed food, that is, those packed with a lot of salt and sugar, snacks, soft drinks, desserts, sweets, juices packed with sugar should be limited. “At this point the octagons can help us“, Add.

Something that is important to emphasize is that lunch boxes do not replace children’s breakfasts or lunches, they are meals and drinks that will help cover energy and nutrient requirements, but they do not replace any main meal.


There is a guide to assemble school lunch boxes regardless of the age of the boy or girl. Nutritionist Bamonde explains that everyone must comply with four food groups.

  • Regulators: they are sources of vitamins and minerals, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Builders: animal or vegetable protein sources, such as soybeans, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Energetics: carbohydrates from fruits, whole grains (oats, whole wheat bread, granola, oatmeal, etc.), potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Moisturizers: water and fruits


The specialist in good manufacturing practices (BPM) Mónica Bamonde indicates that it is very important “take into account handling and hand washing” since this will guarantee that the food arrives in good condition and free of bacteria or pathogens that could cause harm to children.

In addition, it recommends that parents verify that the packages and/or containers are clean and airtight. “The quality of the lunch box and containers (that maintain temperatures), storage temperature and time until consumption” are also important.

Hot foods must be kept above 60 degrees C or shipped cold and heated in a microwave. In the same way there are foods that must be kept cold so that they do not deteriorate. If the temperature cannot be controlled, it is advisable to send food that does not need to be kept hot or cold“, Explain.


Bamonde indicates that the best thing we can do to make preparing lunch boxes a simple task and that it does not generate stress is to go shopping with a list of what is necessary to assemble them.

Put together a weekly or biweekly schedule of daily options and have everything clean and enabled from the day before”, are some of the tips indicated.

Eileen Wong, General Manager of Flora & Fauna, knows that for many parents time is one of the factors they have against, for this reason, she affirms that “If you choose to include packaged foods, they should ideally be free of additives and/or minimally processed.”.

“For example, we can prepare different ideas that contain more than one element, such as yogurt with granola and chopped fruit, corn with cheese, fruit with peanut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus. You can also include granola bars or whole grain crackers. Finally, we can add a bottle of pure water or fruit water. One tip to make preparation easier is to prepare some ingredients the night before and keep them refrigerated until morning,” adds Wong.


Involving the children and asking them about their preferences will help them come back with an empty lunch box and that means they enjoyed what they ate. This advice, always within the framework of what is healthy without falling into restrictions.

The health coach and author of healthy recipe books Ale Crovetto affirms that preparing lunch boxes with children brings benefits: “I have always liked to involve my children in the preparation and plan with them what they want to take and that they also prepare their lunch box so that, in addition to making them independent, they become involved in their eating habits. That excites them, it saves time and it’s fun.”.


Nutritionist Mariel Vera, a specialist in complementary and infant feeding, explains what lunch boxes for children under 5 years of age should include: “They should have different food groups. For example, a fruit and/or vegetable, an energy source (carbohydrate or fat) and protein source (animal or vegetable) and water”, indicates. “With this combination we can cover the necessary nutrients so that they have energy until they get home for lunch.”, he adds.

Sometimes it is believed that because they are small and need more energy for all the activities they will carry out in the nest, they can eat products with a lot of sugar. “As long as ultra-processed foods can be avoided, we will be doing good for the health of the youngest in the house. These products tend to be rich in flavor but are not created to nourish: they lack a good nutritional balance and are usually high in added sugar, saturated fat and sodium.”, he comments.

The nutritionist says that “The more we can avoid them, without restricting them entirely, the better habits we can encourage at home”.

If they have already tried them, they must be offered normally, but let it be known that it is not something to consume every day and that finally, those who do the shopping in the house are the adults.”, indicates.

The nutrition specialist provides five examples:

1. Bread with avocado and fresh cheese + chopped grapes + water

2. Homemade oatmeal cookies + vegetable sticks (cooked or raw depending on texture) with guacamole + water or low-sugar Orangeade.

3. Whole wheat bread with peanut butter, homemade fruit jam + natural yogurt with atomic wheat

4. Chickpea hummus with toast and cucumber sticks + chopped orange

5. Bread with crushed hard-boiled egg with little mayonnaise and/or mustard + blueberries and strawberries


Nutritionist Bamonde explains that the lunch box “It will depend on how long the child will be at school, the amount of food they eat at home and their nutritional status.l” of this.

For example:

  • An apple, 1 whole wheat bread with slices of tofu or low-salt fresh cheese + peeled and seedless tomato, a cereal bar and water.
Fruit with granola and yogurt plus homemade or whole grain cookies.  (Photo: Ale Crovetto)
Hummus with toast or bread and raw vegetables on sticks to add texture to the preparation (Photo: Ale Crovetto)


In the case of adolescents, the Bamonde indicates that they should “include foods that meet requirements”. Here, it should be considered that from this age “nutritional needs change, women need more iron and men more calories”.


  • A banana, a handful of nuts, 1 wholemeal bread with hummus, avocado and lettuce and water.
Fruit salad with dried fruit toppings.  In addition, a vegetable roll with protein of animal or vegetable origin.  Healthy fat: avocado.  (Photo: Ale Crovetto)
Hummus with toasts and vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers.  Ale Crovetto recipe.  (Photo: Ale Crovetto)

Source: Elcomercio

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