Another school year, another year of school lunches. I’m sure it’s not only the kids who aren’t looking forward to it – packing lunches every day isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world! Add to that the sometimes tricky task of making lunchtime both healthy and interesting, and it all gets a bit too much.

To get you started, we’ve put together a list of lunchbox essentials that will keep the kids happy – and healthy!

Fruit and veggies
This one’s pretty obvious, but think beyond an old banana or a couple of apples. A variety of seasonal fruit will provide a good mix of essential vitamins, and don’t overlook the vegetables! Carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, or grilled corn on the cob are all tasty and lunchbox friendly. Or cut your kids’ favourite veggies into sticks and serve with hummus or another bean dip for some added protein!

Not technically part of the lunchbox, but so important we couldn’t leave it out! Kids need to be hydrated throughout the day, so make sure they have a water bottle with them. And no, fruit juice and sports drinks don’t count – they all add loads of unwanted sugar to your kids’ lunchtime!

Delicious dairy
Dairy is great for kids’ growth and development. Cheese and crackers, natural yoghurt and plain milk are all good lunchbox choices – pack them alongside an ice brick to keep them cool. And if dairy isn’t an option for dietary reasons, substitute dairy-free alternatives.

Healthy snacks
Instead of buying them, why not try making your own muesli bars? They’re easy to make, and this way not only do you know exactly what’s in them, but you can customise them depending on what your kids like best! Check out this recipe for Homemade Muesli Bars to get started. Unsalted, unsweetened popcorn is also a fun and healthy snack. Plain, unsalted nuts are a good source of protein, but make sure you check out your school’s nut policy before packing those guys.

Magnificent muffins
There are just so many amazing muffin recipes around. From protein muffins to gluten-free, vegan to sugar free, there’s something to suit everyone! Try these recipes: Orange and Poppyseed Spelt Muffins (sugar free), Banana Berry Muffins (gluten- and dairy- free) or Choc Banana Protein Muffins (gluten-free).