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A third of Irish parents get stressed about preparing a healthy lunchbox for their kids each day

18th August 2021: Over 1 in 4 adults with children aged between 3-18 claim that coming up with new ideas/variety is the most challenging aspect of preparing their child’s lunch. A similar proportion claim that finding the balance between what the child will eat and it being nutritious to be challenging. 1 in 5 claim their child being a fussy eater is the most challenging aspect of ensuring they eat a balanced diet.

As parents all over Ireland prepare for the Back-to-School period ahead, the National Dairy Council commissioned new research (Ref 1) to find out what stresses parents most when it comes to their child’s nutrition. When it comes to balance of nutritious foods, 75% of adults with children aged between 3-18 consider dairy to be an important part of their children’s lunchbox. And as buying and local and sustainable is now more important than ever, 75% also aim to buy Irish produce wherever possible.

Dr Marianne Walsh, Senior Nutritionist at the National Dairy Council says “There’s a lot of things to get used to at the start of the term, ranging from new books to possibly a new teacher, new classroom or new friends,” says Dr. Walsh. “It’s ideal if you can experiment at home with lunch ideas and to introduce some new flavours and new food textures during August, before school starts – or at home during the weekends.  This means children are not coping with new foods on top of everything else at the start of the term in the classroom, but it also means they can take part in the planning and preparation.”

Avoid Boredom

 If a child favours a particular type of food or sandwich it is easy to fall into a routine of providing that for school lunch as a ‘dependable reliable’ all of the time. They may become bored with that food and can even grow to dislike it because they have it so often.

Including variety in sandwiches can often be quite difficult especially five days a week. Using different types of bread can help to prevent boredom – such as bagels, pitta bread, wholemeal wraps and bread rolls. Try to opt for wholegrain varieties where possible and vary sandwich fillings from day to day.

Preparing lunches in interesting shapes and colourful lunchboxes can make lunchtime more appealing.   It’s great to encourage children to try new flavours and textures so that they’re not stuck with the same foods all of the time – but by giving them time to gradually get used to them and expand their tastes.

Keeping it Healthy

Children may want the cakes, biscuits and crisps in their lunchbox but it’s really important to start them on a journey of healthy eating early. The best way to manage this is to watch portion sizes, and ensure a good balance of varied foods in the diet.

Marianne says “Don’t forget that a school lunch is one of your child’s three meals a day, so it’s important to ensure they are getting nutritionally balanced lunches and snacks. Typically, a packed school lunch should contain all of the major food groups, some guidelines below”:

  1. 1 portion of starchy carbohydrate (e.g. wholegrain breads, pittas and wraps, brown rice/pasta)
  2. 1 portion of meat or meat alternative (e.g. chicken, fish, egg, pulses)
  3. 1 portion of dairy (e.g. yogurt, cheese)
  4. 1(+) portion of vegetable (e.g. carrot sticks, peppers, sweetcorn, lettuce, onion)
  5. 1(+) portion of fruit (e.g. apple, orange, banana, pear, kiwi)A drink of water and/or milk

 Miriam Gunn is a dairy farmer in Roscommon and a mum of four – and she’s a strong advocate of the importance of dairy for a healthy lifestyle, and the importance of dairy to Irish life. Anyone with a family understands that back-to-school is a busy and sometimes stressful time – and the return of the lunchbox is a big part of it. Fortunately, living and helping out on a dairy farm has made sure my kids understand the importance of where your food comes from, how it’s produced and how it should be as natural and free from additives as possible.

 “Milk, yogurt and cheese are incredibly important for a healthy life – particularly for growing kids – and it’s good to know that they’re all produced here in Ireland, on one of 18,000 family farms like mine. Given that 8 in 10 people think Irish dairy is the best in the world and our research shows 75% of people want to buy Irish if they can, then our kids ought to be in for a treat.”


Ref 1: Research carried out by Coyne Research August 202. Sample 1,000 adults aged 18+. The target sample was parents of children between the ages of 3 and 18 years old – 31% (312 in total)


For futher information contact:
Cathy Currran, Communications Manager, National Dairy Council
+353 1 290 2518 |