How to Pack a Healthy Lunch Box, Part 1

“Back to School” season is already in full swing and one of the most talked about challenges is “how to pack a healthy lunch box.” I hear it at work, sitting on the sidelines of soccer games and at school. Add in the “green” theme (at least in our neck of the woods) and it presents a higher degree of difficulty. Some days it is hard enough just to get in healthy items in their lunch, let alone leaving out disposable (but not biodegradable) plastic bags and brown paper sacks. Please note that the green bean container above comes with a lid, so if you want to pack hummus, spaghetti, apple sauce, etc..you can!
I can’t say I never pack those. I usually am more “light green” when it comes to packing snack bags. However, for my sons’ lunches, I rely on two different “green” (environmentally conscious) lunch boxes. The main one we use (at my sons’ request) is the “laptop lunch box” kit. It’s an eco friendly bento box and I’d love to say they pay me to advertise for them, but they didn’t!  We just all love it. My boys have become very used to the four compartments and what to expect in each one.  I’ve switched to other lunch boxes over the years, but they insist on this one. I found some very thin ice blocks (actually from my other fav – the “Fit ‘n Fresh” container) that work well underneath the bento box to keep their items cool.
*Pictured above: Green beans, Mission Corn Chips, baby carrots, Babybell Cheese, Turkey and cheese sandwich on Udi’s Gluten Free bread.
To be completely honest, several times a week the nice little container with the carrots and cheese in it actually contain a gluten free cookie (Gasp! I know…I know…sugar is bad. But I’m more of a moderation gal.)
However, the point of packing a nice healthy lunch is that your child is getting a good balance of protein and carbs to give them energy, while minimizing sugar and empty carbs.
I’m crazy jealous of my girlfriend Julie who’s children are such “foodies” that they literally will eat anything placed before them. My children, however, have their favorites and it is what they want every day. I have decided to spend dinnertime introducing new foods, while sending nutritious lunches that I know they’ll eat.
1. What to pack:
Pack a lunch that has protein, carbohydrates, fruits and or veggies. (see below for great sources of protein and carbs)
2. What if they don’t like fruits or veggies?
I have found that having them pick out their favorite at the store and help pack their lunch goes a long way to “buy in” when they actually open their lunch box at school. 
3. Why use an eco-friendly container?
Many of the items we usually use to pack our children’s lunches are not biodegradable and help fill up the landfills and get into our water supply.  It’s not always possible or convenient, but finding a lunch box that is re-usable and BPA-free helps save you money and helps save the environment at the same time.
4. My kid is a picky eater.
Yes. I know. So are mine. Don’t give up. Continue to introduce new foods every day. Even if they just have to take one bite. Rinse and repeat until they have new items that they love.  Be creative. Use cookie cutters to makes food shapes. Tell them that the food you want them to eat is the exact same one that the Jedi’s or their favorite princess eats.  Whatever you do…keep trying!
5. What are some good lunch items that I can send cold?
Sandwiches: turkey, cheese, jelly, peanut butter (if your school lets you), etc.
Dips/Sides: Hummus, Salsa, Rice
Salads: Three bean salads, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, tossed salad
Eggs: Hard boiled, deviled
Seafood: Shrimp, sushi
6. What are some good lunch items that I can send hot? (might need a thermos!)
Soups
Spaghetti
Leftovers
Baked potatoes
7. What are some good sources of protein?
Eggs
Meat
Fish
Cheese/Dairy
Nuts (if your school allows them…a lot of children are deathly allergic to nuts)
Tofu (many brands of tofu have wheat/gluten in it)
Soy
Quinoa
8. What are good sources of carbohydrates?
*Good carbs are the “complex carbs”
Whole grains (if you’re gluten free, stay away from wheat, rye, barley, oats (if they’re not certified GF), spelt and choose whole grain made of rice, corn or Quinoa)
-”whole grains” can be bread, pasta or crackers
Fruits
Vegetables
Nuts
9. I am a full-time working parent, how do I make this easy?
-Make your lunches the night before and/or
-Have your children help pack their own lunch
-Stage your “lunch box” foods in the same place in your pantry or fridge so you don’t have to hunt all over for them in the morning
10. When I speak at schools and read my children’s picture books on healthy eating, I always ask THREE questions:
1. What’s one thing you want to eat every day? FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
2. What’s one thing you want to drink every day? WATER
3. What’s one thing you should do everyday? EXERCISE
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even if you don’t change your routine overnight, continue to introduce new foods, get your children involved and pack something healthy everyday!
7 Comments and 1 Reply
    • Anonymous
    • 09.30.2010

    i'm confuse is gluten-free means no sugar(sugar free) or some sugar

    Reply

    • BlairSprouse
    • 09.30.2010

    Great article!

    Reply

    • Sarah
    • 09.30.2010

    Thank you so much! I have three out of seven of us that are GF,I have really been struggling with the school lunches for picky GF eaters. This was really helpful. I want those lunch boxes!

    Reply

    • Karen Fine
    • 09.30.2010

    Thanks Sarah and Blair!

    Anonymous – gluten isn't in sugar. Gluten free means that you're not eating the protein molecule found in wheat, rye, and barley (malt) that makes a lot of people sick. Sugar doesn't have anything to do with gluten. :-)

    Reply

    • Ara
    • 10.10.2010

    I'm glad to know that there's someone like me who is into green stuffs too. That's right, I agree with you. Preparing a healthy pack lunch is also all about considering what you'll use as for your lunch pack container. A stainless steel tiffin container is one of a great choice when it comes to pack lunches. This container is made up of high quality stainless steels and is 100% BPA free guarantee. All the more, it is durable, reusable and stylish. I believe that once you have a glimpse of this stuff, you'll love it for sure. I would also like to thank you for sharing your ideas about what to pack. This is really a helpful information.

    Reply

    • Laptop Lunches
    • 02.28.2011

    Thanks for the shout out Karen! We are so glad to hear your boys like our lunch boxes! You have some awesome ideas for keeping lunchtime healthy, and we think your blog is just great! If you need some more ideas for healthy lunches we have a menu list on our website that may come in handy! Thanks again for the mention :)

    http://www.LaptopLunches.com

    Reply

  1. This is a wonderful write-up. Many thanks for bothering to explain this all out for folks. It truly is a great help!

    Reply

    • Thanks Keenan! :-)

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