Lunch Ideas For Schools: Inspiration From Around The World

We understand that in the UK, school caterers and contract caterers have certain guidelines to adhere to in order to ensure that health standards are being met and, as we provide products that form part of school meal offerings, we wanted to provide some top nutritional tips for chefs.  

Guidelines can pose somewhat of a culinary challenge for chefs wanting to ensure that the food they serve is not only nutritious but keeps students coming back for more. In our understanding into what qualities students are looking for in a tasty lunch we found that comfort, wholesome and appealing meals top the list. In need of some inspiration for meals that please students but also don’t wrack up costs, are efficient and don’t take too much time? Here at McCain we’re big believers of finding inspiration from other countries when putting together our sample dishes; capitalising on trends from around the world is just one way to do this. Jonathan recently travelled State side to see which trends could be transported to the UK foodservice industry. 

So how can we use global food trends to inspire UK school menus whilst still being healthy and delicious? We looked at typical school lunches around the world to see if there were exciting bits that you could pinch… 


First, we’re off to Italy. The Mediterranean diet is well known for its health benefits, rich in olive oil and plenty of seasonal vegetables. We’re sure there are certain elements to take away with you. We can’t talk about Italy without talking about either of the two dishes that this much-loved cuisine is known for, pasta and pizza.

Why not try serving pizza slices alongside a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad? With added fibre, these pizzas are easy to put in the oven, saving on time and cost. 

A standard school lunch in Greece consists of stuffed vine leaves, orzo pasta with baked chicken and plenty of fresh fruit – no smashed plates though! 
Why not take inspiration from this and chop veggies such as courgette and olives in with pasta and serve with herbed chicken - this will not only boost veg intake for children but is a tasty lunch idea that will keep schoolchildren coming back for more. 


High quality oily fish is just one of the requirements for school food guidelines and, according to recent reports from the Marine Stewardship Council; there has been an 18% increase in schools serving sustainable fish since the regulation was introduced in January 2015. This is great to see as oily fish and whitefish play such a great role in providing the body’s daily requirements of nutrients as well as being a well-known ‘brain food’. 
With healthy eating standards requiring that no more than 2 portions of breaded or battered food be served a week, school chefs have to ensure that there are alternative ways to serving fish in a different way. This not only shows a commitment to the guidelines, but helps spice up a menu too. 
Why not try our One Pot Meal Mediterranean Fish Pie – not only does this ensure that children are getting their fix of white fish but it’s easy to make too. 
Serving fresh fish at lunch is perhaps a much more common occurrence amongst our European neighbours. Why not take inspiration from the Spanish and serve it with rice and finely chopped vegetables with a squeeze of lemon for a healthy, filling and comforting lunch? 


Our last destination to be inspired by is Poland. The typical Eastern European diet relies heavily on meat and potatoes – think thick stews and warming soups. In principle, the staple food items aren’t too dissimilar to the UK. Our classic British menu is, after all, a plateful of roast meat and seasonal vegetables; the only difference is that ours is usually accompanied with gravy…
So, how can school caterers take inspiration from Polish lunches? 
Sausages, mash potato and cabbage may sound like a British menu but this is a stereotypical lunch for schools in Poland. If you don’t feel confident serving Polish-style sausages, opt for a classic Lincolnshire, just mix up the vegetable accompaniments – try red cabbage for a change rather than carrots!
Want to find out how McCain can help offer a school mealtime solution? Get in contact with us today.