A new school year is a great opportunity for nourishing and sustainable choices! The academic year is upon us and that means we get to pack lunches for the little ones that we care for. In my search for lunch boxes I have found some budget conscious, kid-friendly and sustainable favorites. Here are a few of the best ready to go lunch box options for kids!
Having worked at a school, and having packed meals for kiddos, I have found that there are four very helpful perspectives to keep in mind when preparing meals to go.
1. Think Healthfully
When packing lunches we often have health as a priority, but at times the word, “healthy” can feel ambiguous or even restrictive. We may feel pressure to provide a pre-packaged meal that is marketed with words like “natural,” or is “free of” something. This can be especially challenging when we know that “kid-foods” are often packed with preservatives and artificial dyes or chemicals. It's easy to find ourselves feeling like we have to choose between giving our kids things that they like verses the things their bodies need.
The great news is that there are so many ways to be healthy! The fun part is figuring out the favorite quality foods that these students love. Think about nutrient dense, whole, and fresh foods! For example, pack your child's most frequented fruit, favorite veggie or most loved nut-butter sandwich on a hearty grain bread.
2. Think Sustainably
Many foods that are typically associated with children’s lunches are individually packaged in plastic bags, tubs and boxes. We can make a huge positive impact by being selective about the packaging we invest in and intentional about what we consume. By packing lunches in reusable containers or in a box with compartments, we can reduce the amount of waste.
Some kids really do love individually packed items, but the great news is that you can create this experience in sustainable ways. Citrus fruits, pistachios, Snap peas and various other produce are great examples of natural foods that come in their own adorable packages. Another great way to individualize your child's experience is for them to have reusable containers that they really enjoy using that they feel represent them. Clay, glass, steel or made to last plastic wear can be a really meaningful long term investment.
3. Think Logistically
This principle is not always on the forefront of our minds, but it is nonetheless very important. Sending our kids with food that they can access, prepare, and eat independently is ideal. The school lunchroom is often a busy place with a high student to adult ratio, and there is not always someone available to heat pizza, open plastic bags, or punch a straw into a juice box. Thinking about the time frame allotted and appliances available will also guarantee the best lunch break possible.
Providing your student with options that encourage age-appropriate independence is a great way to give them ownership for their healthy lunches. Great examples of this would be a sandwich or wrap that is already ready to go! Compartmentalized lunches are also a great option, these can include a power bar that is unwrapped and cut up, a cucumber or carrot that is peeled and sliced with some hummus for dipping, and fruit that is in small portions like berries or grapes.
4. Think Seasonally
Shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables is a great way to encourage healthful lunches! Often in-season produce has the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to fight off back to school bugs. Eating in season can mean that you are getting the freshest and finest plant based foods. It's also easier to eat seasonally if you shop local. Farmers markets and CSA boxes are amazing ways to get local and organic produce. Most of the food that is seasonal is also healthy and eco-friendly.
Eating seasonally can be great for the budget as well. Usually when produce is in season, it is also on sale or easy to get in bulk!