There seems to be two camps on school lunches– on the one side we have those that take great pride in creating amazing works of art that are beautiful to look at and also healthy to eat. I secretly admire those parents and wish I was one of them . . . or had one of them – those lunches look so good!
The other side seems to pick up the latest convenient boxed lunch item with words like “grains” “real fruit” and “nut free’ on the label, doing their best to provide a good lunch fast. However, after filling the kids lunch bag with packaged foods, the remnants of these lunches fill our garbage’s and recycle bins with all their wrappings. Even if the contents are deemed healthy, the garbage created in one lunch hour in one classroom at one school is mind boggling. Multiply that by the whole school, the whole school year and . . . you get the idea.
I like to aim somewhere in the middle. Our school lunches are not a work of art but they are healthy, they do not contain any packaging that requires recycling yet my kids get to have fun snacks with real fruit and grains. The best part is, over the years, I have made lunch making super simple, easy enough that the kids can make their school lunches. Smart Mom, right?
Using this checklist, I have narrowed down what is important to have, and not have, in our school lunches, and made it simple enough that THEY now make all their own lunches.
Sit with the kids and write out a list of items they like – favorite fruits, acceptable sandwiches, hot lunches they would like and how you can incorporate calcium and a few snacks you both agree are healthy – and then see if you can’t get a new routine in place to create weeks worth of healthy litterless school lunches!
School Lunch Checklist for Healthy Litterless Lunches
Swap Out Packaging
✔️ no juice boxes – have juice at breakfast and take refillable water bottle to school
✔️no yogurt tubes – use small container, fill with plain or vanilla yogurt & frozen berries
✔️reduce packaged granola bars – try batch baking and freeze – so easy to pop in small container. Try these cookies or muffins or these amazing Chocolate Power Balls (kids favorite!)
Healthy Lunch Includes:
Include at least one of each of these in their lunch and you will have a healthy lunch for your kids growing bodies.
✔️Whole grains – whole wheat or grain bread, oatmeal cookies or muffins, whole grain dry cereal
✔️Protein – nitrate free chicken, turkey or ham slices, cheddar cheese, hummus, roasted chick peas, cottage cheese, milk, hard boiled egg, tuna
✔️Calcium – plain or vanilla yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese cubes, broccoli, milk
✔️Fruit or Veg– sliced fruit -apples, pears, nectarines, grapes, melon or veggies for dipping like carrots, broccoli, red pepper.
Simplify – 5 Container System
Teach kids a Container System and have them each be responsible to fill a few containers.
✔️Container 1 – sandwich or hot lunch must include protein and whole grains
✔️Container 2 – fruit or veg – sliced real fruit or vegetables
✔️Container 3 – yogurt with berries or pudding, cottage cheese, hummus
✔️Container 4 – whole grain snack – homemade or purchased – read labels carefully
✔️Container 5 – extra snack – dry cereal, pretzels, crackers
Whole grains, protein, calcium and fresh fruit and vegetables make up a healthy lunch but don’t forget the drinks.
✔️Avoid carbonated beverages
✔️Avoid fruit punches
✔️Send refillable water bottles, a small reusable drink box with 100% juice or milk