My mum's sultana scones, leftover bacon and kidney pie, made-by-me sticky orange and cinnamon scrolls; I'd be the first to admit that the things I took to school for lunch weren't necessarily a) the best examples of a healthy diet and b) acceptable to the other kids (“kidneys? Errugh!”). Still, I survived.

Now, with my eldest daughter about to head into senior infants this September, I've one year of making school lunches under my belt. Most days it was a triumph of hope over experience as I made wraps from leftover roasts, or cheese sandwiches (challenging, when she keeps switching allegiences between supermarket cheddar and Gubbeen – only available at markets 30km away) and shoehorned a pot of granola, a tangerine or handful of carrot sticks into her lunch bag.

At least the food that made the round trip tasted good as I repurposed it for my own lunch.

But I'm starting the new school year with a clean slate. Plus, the six-year-old's palate is so much more developed than her junior infant one so it's all going to be so much better. Honestly.

We'll survive.

Simple building blocks for a better lunch

Fruit: fresh and dried

Vegetables: raw or cooked

Protein: tuna, ham, chicken, hard boiled eggs, crispy bacon, bean dips eg hummus

Grains: focus on wholemeal - bread, rolls, bagels, pita, crackers, wraps, scones, rice, pasta, rice cakes, oatcakes, wholegrains eg barley, buckwheat, quinoa

Dairy: yogurt, cheese, milk

Drink: water

Avoid: crisps, fizzy drinks, processed meats and foods, muesli or breakfast bars, juices

Pumpkin and feta tortilla

A tortilla is a great way of getting vegetables, protein and dairy into one slice, as long as they eat it! This is a simple template of a recipe. Larger pan? Just adjust the ingredients upwards. You can use any cooked vegetables – try potato, squash or sweet potato – with whatever cheese you have in the fridge. Crumbled goat's cheese, grated cheddar and cubes of blue cheese are all good. Adjust for your own little darling's tastes. Serves 2.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g cooked pumpkin, cubed
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • A handful of chopped chives
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Sea salt, freshly milled black pepper
  • Heat the olive oil in a 20cm frying pan – I use a cast iron one – over a medium heat.

    Whisk the eggs lightly together, then stir in the cooked pumpkin, feta and chives. Season to taste, keeping in mind that the feta is already salty. Pour the egg mixture into the hot pan, top with cherry tomatoes, turn the heat down low and cook slowly for 10-12 minutes or until set. To speed this up, you can always pop the tortilla under a preheated grill for a couple of minutes.

    Let it settle for five minutes then cut into wedges to pop into a lunchbox. Serve at room temperature.

    More recipes from Caroline

    Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans

    Chocolate, Porter and Potato Cake

    Reinvented Coleslaw