“It’s recess time! Look what I brought in my snack box!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your kids look forward to discovering what’s in their snack boxes each day, and devour the food you lovingly prepare for them?

Related: Cute Bentos for Kids

Make Healthier Eating a Habit from Young

For many time-pressed mums, preparing something healthier and appealing to the child’s appetite, while making sure that the food stays fresh and appetising until it is eaten, sounds like a monumental task.

But it doesn’t have to be so daunting. Here’s why you should press on:

What kids eat at recess is as important as the rest of the meals in the day, especially for those who do not have a substantial breakfast or lunch before they reach school.

Kids develop food preferences very early in life. So if your kids prefer to bring snacks from home, take it as an opportunity to reinforce healthier eating habits consistently. Nudge them onto a healthier diet and reduce the chances of needing to deal with weight or health issues down the road.

Related: Are Your Kids Eating Healthily at Their Child Care Centre?

A Healthier Plate for Kids

Planning a healthier snack is like planning any other meal. You can start by looking through the simple guidelines in My Healthy Plate. A growing child needs nutrients from all the food groups i.e. fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and meat. If you are not sure how much your kids should be eating each day, check out the recommended servings from each food group for kids of different ages here.

When preparing snacks for recess, keep in mind the following:

  • Make it a Healthy Plate, consisting of food from the different food groups. Use less salt and sugar, and cook with healthier oils.
  • Make it easy for your kids to finish the food. While some children may handle a chicken wing with bones intact, others may do better with the meat already cut up into bite sizes. Think of the cutlery they need. Try to avoid soupy stuff or food with lots of gravy in case of spillage.
  • Prepare just the right amount. Over-eating may lead to excessive weight gain. So apportion the food according to your kids’ needs.
  • Take note of food safety and hygiene. Food pathogens, or harmful bacteria and virus etc. that can cause serious illnesses, increase rapidly between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius. The food should be eaten within four hours[1] so don’t cook it too early and make sure to store it in an air-tight or insulated container.

Related: Complement the Child Care Centre’s Menu

First, Decide on a Wholegrain… then Pick the Veggies and Meat


Wholegrains are packed with fibre, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Because they take longer to digest, wholegrains can keep your kids full longer to sustain them through the school hours.

Wholegrains come in many forms. Look out for wholegrains in your next grocery shopping trip. You can find them in brown rice, wholegrain or brown rice noodles, wholegrain or wholemeal pasta, breads, wraps, flour, and mantou, wholegrain cereals and crackers, and so on.

An easy way to fill your kids’ snack boxes is to decide on a wholegrain, then select the vegetables and meat to go with it, such as:

  • Fried brown rice with frozen vegetables and lean chicken breast
  • Fried brown rice vermicelli (bee hoon) with cabbage, bean sprouts and egg
  • Wholegrain pasta with mushrooms, capsicums and lean, minced beef
  • Wholegrain and high-fibre sandwich bread and burger buns with lettuce and meat patties
  • Wholegrain naan, pita bread or tortilla made into pizzas and burrito wraps with meat and vegetable toppings or fillings

Related: Whole Grains — The Wise Choice!

Easier Options for Those Lazy Mornings

If the idea of waking up early in the morning to cook doesn’t appeal to you, there are grab-and-go options such as wholegrain cereal, crackers or mantou. For home baking enthusiasts, try making bread, muffins and cakes using wholegrain or wholewheat flour or oat. These can be paired with fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables for a more wholesome snack.

If you have kids who don’t hesitate to chomp on raw vegetables, you can pack lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery or carrots into their snack boxes as a side dish. Remember to wash and dry them thoroughly. Alternatively, heat up a handful of frozen vegetables such as corn, carrots or broccoli. Vegetables with vibrant colours make the meal more appetising.

Nuts and eggs are great sources of protein and are easy to prepare too. For example, the snack box can include a small packet of almonds, pistachios or cashews. Choose nuts that are not deep-fried, salted or sugar-coated. Eggs, done in different ways like hard-boiled eggs or omelettes, are both satisfying and filling.

Legumes (beans, lentils and peanuts) are another good source of protein. Frozen edamame soybeans can be quickly heated up and included in the snack. Peanuts (cooked in healthier ways) are convenient too.

Related: Nuts About Nuts

Add Fruit for Completeness

Eating fruit at recess helps kids meet their daily requirements of two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables. If packing cut fruit, add some lemon juice to prevent oxidisation. Here are some suggestions of fruit you can include in their snack box.

  • A small banana
  • A bunch of 10-12 grapes
  • A wedge of papaya cut up
  • A small apple or pear cut up and mixed with lemon juice
  • Orange pieces with the peel taken off for ease of eating
  • 4-5 strawberries
  • A small packet (40g) of dried fruit such as raisins, dates or apricot

Related: Fun Fruity Facts

School Canteens are Selling Healthier Food Too

School canteens on board the Healthier Meals in Schools Programme are playing their part to provide healthier food choices in school. This requires food and beverages sold in school to contain less fat, salt and sugar. In addition, schools are starting to sell healthier set meals which include food from all the important food groups.

On days when you need to take a break from food preparation, you can encourage your kids to buy healthier food in school so that they can eat a greater variety of food for recess.

Related: Eat to Win in Your School Canteen

Make the Next Snack Box a Healthier One

And perhaps one day, your kids may say,

“Hey, it’s recess time! Look what I brought in my snack box! It’s healthier and yummy!”

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

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  1. National Environment Agency. (n.d.). 4 Tips on Consuming Food Safely [PDF].
    Retrieved March 2016 from https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/our-services/4-tips-on-consuming-food-safely.pdf