This is how Much Kids’ Packed Lunches Have Changed Over the Years

Packed lunches children eating

Take a trip down memory lane as we look back at how much kids’ school packed lunches have changed through time.

Kids’ packed lunches are nutritionally far healthier today than they were 50 years ago, according to research.

With back to school season in full swing, Wren Kitchens have conducted research revealing just how much school packed lunches have changed over the years.

Speaking about the changes, nutritionist Jenny Edelstein, explains “There’s been a definite shift away from heavily processed foods we saw in packed lunches in the 1990s and high sugar content seen in classic 1970s lunchboxes. Today, we see packed lunches include a good range of fruit, vegetables and protein.”

Parents’ packed lunch anxieties

In recent times, school lunches have become a source of anxiety for parents. Not enough fruit and veg and too much sugar is the general guilt-causing consensus.

Waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare a packed lunch for your little one is a reality for many, with the average child taking a packed lunch to school 3 times a week.

With 1 in 3 parents feeling the pressure from other parents to make them exciting and healthy, an element of competition has crept into the mix. Prices are also climbing, with the cost of packed lunches a week sometimes reaching £15 for 1 child.

“Looking at social pressures, over a third feel pressure from other parents to create healthy and exciting packed lunches for their children, but 27% say the cost of maintaining healthy lunches are far too high.”

For this reason, over half of parents think that the government should offer incentives, such as subsidising healthy food and offering meal vouchers and education.

Children skipping down the road, swinging their lunchboxes, is a timeless image. But the lunch inside has changed dramatically since the 1970s. Rocking up on the first day after the summer holidays has always been accompanied by a few exciting novelties. The crisp new uniform (which you’re swimming in even though your mum insists “you will grow into it”), your cool new pencil case and your lunch box.

However, a camera reel of children opening their lunch boxes every year would show huge changes over time.

We’ve taken a trip through the ages to take a look at how much school packed lunches have changed over the years.

Typical packed lunch in the 70s

1970s lunch

What’s inside:

– Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
– Cheese squares
– Cheese puff balls
– Pineapple slices
– Carton of orange juice from concentrate

Typical packed lunch in the 80s


What’s inside:

– Pickled Onion and Cheese Sandwiches
– Crisps (Like space raiders)
– Chocolate Biscuit with Marshmellow Filling (like Wagon Wheels)
– Apple Slices
– Carton of Orange Juice from Concentrate

Typical packed lunch in the 90s


What’s inside:

– Ham sandwich (like Billy Bear ham)
– Potato hoop crisps
– Animal shaped biscuits
– Chocolate sandwich biscuit (like Penguins)
– Jelly fruit pot
– Orange flavoured drink (like Capri Sun)

Typical packed lunch in the 00’s (2000’s)


What’s inside:

Tuna and sweetcorn mayo sandwich
– Yoghurt tube (like Frubes)
– Salty Crisps (Like Pringles)
– Stringy Cheese
– Chocolate Fingers (Like KitKat)
– Apple Slices & Grapes
– Fruit flavoured water

Typical packed lunch in the 10’s (2010-now)

2010s to now-lunch

What’s inside:

Chicken salad with peppers sandwich thins
– Carrot sticks
– Crisps (handful)
– Chocolate finger (1x) (like Twix finger)
– Tropical fruits like kiwi, raspberries, and blueberries
– Yogurt covered raisins

How to make your child’s school lunch healthier

Today’s parents are under increasing pressure from society and fellow parents to single-handedly combat the UK’s obesity crisis. According to a recent scientific study of 20,000 parents by University College London, working parents are more likely to have obese children.

To help combat this, nutritionist Jenny has come up with some sound advice to help parents with their children’s school lunches.

“Knowing where to start when creating a balanced and nutrient filled lunch can be challenging, but just stepping away from excess fats and added preservatives will do wonders for your child’s health.

“Try replacing processed sandwiches with a healthy chicken and sweet potato wrap and swapping sugary drinks for water.”

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