Eco-Friendly School Lunch

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Tis the season for packing lunches. I’ve gotten some emails asking for tips on how to pack a healthy school lunch and to “green” the lunch box. I have to say, when it comes to packing a healthy lunch I think parents have to keep in mind, the lunch room is competitive and there are lots of trades made. Yes, that means if you pack a banana it might get traded for something else, like an apple. Really, the scenario is more likely that if you pack your child a banana they most likely will find no child to trade with them. For you, this is good. For them, this is bad. I’ve seen what goes on in a lunch room and I wouldn’t want to humiliate my child and make them be “uncool”. So what you pack and how you pack it, it does effect your child. We can all tout the idea that we are teaching our children it is okay to be different and eat healthy and have a “green” lunch box but what about the child that is “in the moment”. They don’t have our adult self-esteem or confidence as they eat a sprout sandwich and munch on tofu sticks. Realize, I’m still an advocate for healthy options and lunches but I am realistic!

Here are my tips for greening the lunch box and having some still healthy but “cool” lunches”:

1. Sit down with your child and decide on some items that you both can agree on. You might want tofu but they might not eat it and just throw it in the garbage. How are you to know? Besides, that is a waste of money. By making a list of good foods that your child likes and will agree to eat you both win. Check out some holistic tips for packing a healthy lunch.

2. Decide where you will give in. If 90% of the lunch is organic, healthy and wholesome, will a chocolate pudding really hurt them? If they love chocolate chip cookies maybe make them at home on a Sunday with mom approved ingredients. Choose a sweet treat that they like and they are more likely to eat it then trade it. My son loves the Cliff Kid Twisted Ropes and I’m sure he would never trade this treat away. You can buy healthy lunch supplies but it’s important to look at tip number 1, will your child eat them.

3. If you know there are some treats or snacks that your child likes buy them in bulk. Save yourself money and time. I buy many of the Late July snack packs in bulk and it makes for an easy choice for me and the kids. They know they like them, I know they are healthy and they choose which kind they want that day. It makes things very simple.

4. Choose a lunch box that is eco-friendly. Meaning no plastic baggies! Laptop Lunch Bento boxes are BPA free, you don’t have to use any plastic bags and the system includes a recipe book. Another suggestion might be to try an eco-friendly lunch system from Nubius Organics.  I’ve tried many different styles and like the Kid Konserve and  Eco Lunch.  You’ll find from a wide variety of lunch boxes and a wrap n’ mat for sandwiches. My only advise, make sure you teach your child not to throw any of the bento boxes away or the wrap n’ mats! Your child has to learn that these are reusable and that you are trying to cut down on waste in the landfill. You might have your mission and agenda but a child who is in a hurry to get to recess might not be so thoughtful. Be prepared to lose a few things if this is your first go around at ditching the plastic baggies.

5. Keep children hydrated. This is proven to help children learn better. I love it when schools allow for children to bring water to their desks. Thirsty children should be allowed to drink, it helps the brain. I suggest organic milk boxes for the lunch box but also include a reusable water bottle with cold water. Encourage your child to drink from this often throughout the day. I especially like the Foogo by Thermos.

6. Hot lunch is a great experience for children and many children enjoy the idea of joining their pals in the lunch line. It’s understandable but for a parent who worries about chicken nuggets full of hormones and greasy french fries and trans fat, the idea isn’t so wonderful. This is where I caution all going “green” parents and remind them of moderation. Our children cannot be shielded from bad food all the time and if we go over board, our children could revolt someday and only eat bad food. Teaching them about moderation and helping them learn to appreciate the healthy food and how fresh food tastes will go a long ways. The hope is for them to prefer that food. So should they be allowed to buy hot lunch? I say, yes. Let them choose a few days off the school menu and then make sure that their breakfast and lunch on these days are outstanding. Most school lunches are improving and if your school is not improving, do something about it.

7. Improve school lunches and vending machines. Not every parent can pack lunch and that is why there is hot lunches. Join the P.T.A. or P.T.O. and voice your concern. Too many children are overweight and obese that even if your child isn’t or you can pack a healthy lunch everyday, check out what Stonyfield Farms is doing to help make school menus and vending machines healthier and join the cause. Check out the Healthy School Nutrition Association and see what legislation is taking place and how you can help support the cause.

The best advise I can give to any parent wanting to help their children eat healthy and to “green” their lunch box and habits, get the child involved. When children are part of the solution they are more likely to like what is in their lunch and eat it. Children are capable of understanding why you aren’t using plastic baggies and perhaps they can be motivated or inspired to green their lunch room, depending on the age. There are lots of resources for getting your children involved in going “green” at school.

If your child has the interest then seize the moment and check out some of these additional green resources:

Green School Initiative

NRDC The Green Squad

Kids Be Green

Also read Green School Supplies are Cool for other great green back to school tips!

12 thoughts on “Eco-Friendly School Lunch”

  1. I’m dealing with this and my daughter right now. Last year in kindergarten, she ate vegetables just fine in her lunch box. This year she won’t touch them. It’s not a taste change, as it’s favorites she still wolfs down at home, like cucumbers and bell peppers. It’s that she has noticed that none of the other kids bring vegetables, and she’s afraid they will say something to her, even though she admits no one has said anything yet.

    I’m working on it, though. Last year pasta salads worked great. I cooked the pasta up and kept it in the fridge, with just a touch of dressing to keep the noodles from sticking, then each morning I could throw in whatever came to mind. I think a repeat of this might help the veggie aversion, even if I have to cut them smaller.

    Stephanie – Green SAHMs last blog post..Guest Post: Saving the Planet, One Diaper at a Time

  2. Great Tips – Question. I have teenagers. They WILL NOT use lunchboxes or reusables. As for packing then, baggies or tinfoil? Wax paper?

    My first grader loves the packaging that can be reused – but the big kids are embarrassed enough that they don’t get “lunchables”. !!


  3. It is good to see so many more people making the switch to organic and green lifestyles. Great post! Helping children understand and appreciate this lifestyle is the key to our future…. thanks!!

    OrganicGuys last blog post..Budgets Squeezed, Some Families Bypass Organics

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  5. Don't forget to pack a cloth napkin or hand towel instead of paper. A year of paper napkins really adds up also. My favorite to pack are PeopleTowels.

  6. Great tips! Moderation is so key….i have a very difficult time with this one. I don't want my children to go crazy with junk food-which they don't get a lot of at home. They usually do go overboard if given the opportunity.

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