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Five tips for a healthy school lunch box

Cooking up new ideas for school lunches can be a challenge, but seasonal produce provides lots of variety for a healthy lunch, says 5+ A Day.  

Nutrients are vital in helping children concentrate in class and getting them through the school day. Lunch time is when they refuel to boost energy levels, ready to take on the afternoon. 

Filling lunch boxes with pre-packaged food that is often high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, can be the easy option. But picking fresh seasonal produce over ready-made means lunch can provide up to one third of a child’s recommended daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.  

To help maintain kids’ energy levels during the day, lunch should consist of a variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, good fats and calcium-rich foods. Getting children involved by asking what they would like for lunch will help increase the likelihood of lunch boxes coming home empty.

Here are five tips from 5+ A Day for a healthy lunch box:

Tip one: Fresh seasonal fruit cut into bite-sized pieces and made into a fruit salad is the ideal lunch box solution. Serve with a small tub of reduced fat yoghurt. For a savoury option, use baby carrots and cucumber sticks as dippers with a small container of hummus. Work with the seasons and provide seasonal produce for a change in flavour, colour and texture.

Tip two: Wholemeal wraps or mini pita pockets with simple fillings add variety to lunches. Try avocado, grated carrot and marmite, cucumber, mint and low-fat cream cheese or lettuce and mashed hard-boiled egg. Roll up wraps and cut into pinwheel shapes or cut mini pita pockets in half.

Tip three: Spread rice cakes with reduced fat cream cheese and top with a range of vegetables and fruit including carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, summer berries, sprouts and capsicum.

Tip four: Finger food is a favourite with kids and mini frittatas fit the bill perfectly. Sauté grated carrot and chopped onion. Add to grated courgette and mix through whisked eggs. Pour the mixture into muffin tins and sprinkle with a little grated cheese. Bake until golden, cool and pack.

Tip five: Homemade mini pizzas are always a lunch box favourite and, with a little planning, you can make a batch to save time in the mornings. Lightly spread wholemeal pita pockets  with tomato paste and top with sliced mushrooms, capsicum and halved cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with a little grated reduced fat Mozzarella cheese. Bake in a hot oven until golden.  Let the pizzas cool, place in a container and store in the fridge until needed.   

For more lunch box ideas, go to: www.5aday.co.nz.

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Healthy lunch boosts productivity, research finds

Warding off a mid-afternoon slump at work could be as easy as eating a healthy lunch, according to the results of a recent 5+ A Day survey.  

The survey on consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in the workplace found 72 percent of workers felt more productive in the afternoon after eating a healthy lunch rather than something high in fat or sugar. 

Almost half (46 percent) of workers reported eating fruit at work at least once a day.

And when it comes to taking homemade lunch to work, 85 percent of those surveyed include fruit and vegetables. 

It seems fruit has a feel-good factor for workers, with 69 percent of respondents reporting they would feel positively towards their employer if fresh fruit was available to them. Yet, the majority of those surveyed (65 percent) said their employers did not provide fruit or make it available to them at work.  

In addition, 64 percent of those surveyed said they would take part in a healthy eating challenge if it was organised by their employer.

Anna Sloan, dietitian at Nutrition Connection says eating fruit daily provides  immunity-boosting vitamins and is a nutrient dense source of energy.

“Fruit and vegetables have powerful antioxidants that supplements can’t mimic and fruit as a snack doesn’t give the same energy slump that snacks like chocolate or lollies do,” says Anna. “In fact, bananas release a compound that gives the same good feelings in the brain that chocolate does, and apples are a more effective wake up food than coffee.”  

Anna says other fruit is just as good for providing a sweet healthy treat to make you more productive with better levels of energy.

The results are from a survey of 368 people nationwide, conducted by Nielsen in November. It forms part of 5+ A Day’s ongoing research into the eating habits of New Zealanders when it comes to fruit and vegetables.

Healthy workplace lunch tips 

For optimal health we should strive to eat five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. As a guide, a serving is about a handful. A great tasting healthy lunch doesn’t have to be expensive if you plan ahead and buy seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. Here are some tips:

Snack ideas

  • Freeze a bunch of grapes and place in your lunchbox in the morning, not only does it bring out the sweetness but it also keeps other food fresh.
  • Fruit – whole fruit, or try berries and sliced stone fruit mixed through yoghurt.
  • Vegetables – sliced carrots, cucumber, celery and capsicum with a low-fat dip. Try homemade salsa (tomato, red onion, avocado, coriander and lime juice) or natural yoghurt mixed with lemon juice, cucumber and a little crushed garlic.
  • Crackers with avocado, tomato, salsa and light cottage cheese.

Summer lunches

  • Tomato, basil and feta bruschetta. Pack the bread and topping in separate containers and build at work for maximum freshness.
  • Fruit salad – use any fruit in season. Lemon juice squeezed over chopped fruit will prevent it turning brown and will give it a nice tang.
  • Green salads – mix salad greens with seasonal vegetables such as asparagus, tomatoes and cucumber. Dress with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Coleslaw – shred cabbage, carrot, a little red onion and add parsley. Mix through a dressing made with plain yoghurt, lemon juice, mustard and a little olive oil.

Sandwich fillings

  • Spread avocado on your sandwich instead of butter or mayo and make your sandwich instantly healthier.
  • Take vegetables in a container and put your sandwich together at work to prevent it getting soggy.
  • Pack wholegrain pita, naan, bagels or wraps with all your favourite shredded vegetables mixed together with a diced boiled egg.
  • Roast vegetables the night before to make tasty sandwiches. Roasted mushrooms, red capsicum and eggplant are great in sandwiches or wraps.
  • Load up sandwiches or wraps with some or all of the following: grated carrot, capsicum, sliced cucumber, mushroom, tomato and spinach, avocado, lettuce or beetroot. 


Prepared on behalf of 5+ A Day by Bloom PR. For more information, interviews or images please contact Shelley Ashdown on shelley@bloompr.co.nz or 021 912 221.