Lunch box staples unpacked

Add these to any lunch box and your child will be good to go.


My rule with cheese is ‘if it looks like it came from a cow, it’s on the green list.’ White cream cheese and cottage cheese qualify. Hard cheeses like cheddar and soft cheeses like chervil (goat’s cheese) are fine additions to a lunchbox.


Sliced biltong is a good snack, and children like it. But they get through it at a rate. Making your own is a good way to keep costs down. It’s also the healthiest biltong your children can eat. The next healthiest thing to do is to buy game biltong from a butchery.


When it comes to cold meat, we apply the Nature Rule: Does what you are about to give your child look like something from nature? By this logic, a drumstick, a slice of steak, a rasher of bacon, a cube of home-cooked ham or a chunk of smoked fish fillet are good. At the other end of the scale are processed meats, like polony, which should be avoided. Stick with sliced, cooked meat for your child’s lunch box. Roll them into cigars if you like. You can even put a stick of cheese or cucumber inside the cigar. In general, think ‘leftovers’, not ‘cold meats’.


Raw tree nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios are the best bet for your child’s lunch box. To make your own nut butter, use a handheld blender.


Sticks of raw veg are extremely useful in the low-carb environment for scooping up dollops of hummus, tahini, paté or dip. Not eating enough veg is a mistake often made by people switching to this way of eating. Play it safe by including veg in lunchboxes. This can be in the form of salad, leftover cooked veg (dressed or not), chips or plain, raw crudités. All vegetables, except white potatoes, are suitable for low-carb kids.


Consider how food will look after several hours in a warm box. Nobody wants a squashed brown banana.


Dried fruit is a no-no in our book. It doesn’t satisfy hunger like a whole juicy fruit would.


Sandwiches are a lunchtime classic for a reason. They’re clean, easy and quick. They’re also filling. Teen boys may demand nothing less. My tip is to go big on the filling and skimp on the wrapping. Use low-GI bread, thinly sliced, low-carb bread,* or a low-carb wrap. The more substantial the filling the less need for bread. Try and include at least two fats and a hearty protein serving as well as some sliced raw veggies. Your tween or teen girl might like to have her ‘fillings’ in salad form, with quinoa instead of bread. Your pre-schooler might like his ‘fillings’ in a compartment plate or lunchbox.

Here are some suggestions for your home sandwich bar:

FATS (CHOOSE 1 to 2)

  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Avocado with lemon juice
  • Butter
  • Nut butters
  • Olive paste
  • Coconut butter


Leftovers from the night before

  • Mince
  • Chicken
  • Sausage
  • Eggs
  • Hummus


  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Full-cream milk


  • Grated carrots
  • Sliced tomato and cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Baby spinach leaves

* See my book for recipe of low-carb bread.


As a lunch box filler, don’t be talked into buying anything with a crinkly wrapper. Just don’t do it. The same goes for sweet biscuits, crackers and crisps. Treats need not be edible. Look beyond unhealthy food treats. Young children will enjoy a handwritten note from mom or a fun eraser or cool pencil.


Teens hit the take-aways and fast-food outlets much more frequently than they did when they were younger. This is often because of school, sports and work schedules overlapping with regular mealtimes. Talk to your teen about limiting fast food to once a week. Help prepare an extra, easy-to-eat meal in advance, such as a healthy sandwich, or last night’s meal leftovers.



Megaw K. Real food, healthy, happy children. Quivertree Publications. 2015.

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Lunch box staples unpacked

Kath Megaw
About The Author
- holds four medical qualifications including a paediatric dietetic qualification from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. She frequently speaks to professionals and parents on infant and childhood nutrition. She also speaks on television and radio. She is the author of Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children and co-author of Feeding Sense, has been in private practice for the past 15 years and is the founder of Nutripaeds, a paediatric dietetic practice. She is married with three children.