Packing a school lunch for children is much less expensive than buying lunch at school, but packing a healthy lunch can be challenging. We all want to include food that is healthy and that our kids will eat! We can’t control what is eaten, what is given away, and what is put in the trash bin when we are not there.
Before sending any raw vegetables with your child, check the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen (Pesticide List) and Clean 15 (Best Choices to avoid pesticide doses). It doesn’t matter if you wash them. You will still get pesticide residues from the Dirty Dozen. Avoid these if possible. The EWG publishes a new list each year based on testing of that year’s produce.
Preparing Food that Kids Want to Eat
Why not prepare lunches that look inviting and that kids want to eat? Some take a bit of extra time, and some don’t. But the extra time is well spent, especially for little ones, if it means that they will surely eat the food.
You are also investing this time to teach them to eat food that is healthy. You are helping them avoid obesity, learn what healthy food tastes like, and teaching them to enjoy fresh and unadulterated food.
Here is a list of practical things that you can put in a lunch box, with ideas on how to make them healthier.
- It is safer and easier to pack breads and vegetables than meats, which spoil. You don’t have to refrigerate most vegetarian foods.
- Think finger foods!
- Fresh, raw vegetables chopped in bite-size pieces are great for kids. Include a dip like creamy peanut butter or hummus in a small plastic container to avoid concerns about spoilage. All washed vegetables will last a morning, until lunch.
- Avoid processed foods; that is, foods in a box or foods that have a long list of chemical ingredients. Nobody benefits from these foods. They are empty calories, only worse, because the chemical additives will have an impact on your children’s bodies sooner or later.
Here are some specific suggestions, starting with an overview of the basics of a healthy school (bag) lunch.