The 411 on Lunchbox Fun: Packing healthy, safe, cool lunches for you and your family
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It would be very easy to succumb to those non-descript, pre-packed wrapped lunch meals and neon-colored ‘phood’ snacks. But you know better than to slap that super processed, phony baloney onto your kid’s buns. You’ve bought them school supplies. Now get them food wise, starting with what’s for lunch. I mean, white bread and fluorescent snacks are so 1982.
How can you save time, money and pack a safe, healthy, delicious lunch your whole family can enjoy? Tote your own. There’s no limit to how creative you can get…plus it’s green in more ways than one.
Five Reasons Why Packing a Lunch For You and Your Family Makes So Much Sense (Cents):
- It’s bound to be cheaper than what’s on the menu
- No waiting in the lunch line, so they have time to chew
- You can enjoy foods free of bacteria, hormones and pesticide residue
- Peace of mind that their meal has been given the stamp of approval by you
- We hear packing a lunch is what the cool kids do
Get ahead of the yellow food bus this school year and explore all the tools, tips and tricks you need from the Fit Foody. Mama tested, kid approved.
Tips for lunchbox success:
Make a list and buy it once. Take our tips, make your list and head to the store on the weekend and buy 1-2 weeks worth of supplies so you’re stocked up. Being prepared is half the sanity battle.
Have them do it. Get kids involved in shopping with you and making their own healthy lunches. the night before. The connection to picking and making food builds a foundation for good eating habits and teaches them responsibility. Have them make one for you while they’re at it. It’ll save you $5-10 bucks a day which could go to your vacation fund or a non-profit you’ve been meaning to donate to.
Riff off the ordinary. You don’t have to stick with the same ‘ole sandwich. There are a lot of fun options, from wraps to salads, soups to healthier frozen foods that you and your kids can both enjoy. Boar’s Head lean sliced meats and cheeses make the perfect staple, rolled into a wrap or layered into a pita with veggies. BTW – If you saw my segment on Channel Six San Diego today, the amazing pinwheels were made by the folks at Boar’s Head and the San Diego crew couldn’t have been happier. We also love Dr. Praeger’s Kid’s Meals for a hot lunchtime treat - low in sodium and high in flavor with many gluten free options. I also like to add Chobani (kid-sized) Greek yogurt with little containers of Bear Naked granola and fresh berries for them to mix in. If you want to send something warm and have it stay that way, pack it in a Kleen Kanteen thermos. BPA-free and keeps everything nice and toasty. I can see us doing that a lot more as the weather starts to cool – the kids love vegetarian chili and brown rice pasta dishes.
Keep it safe and green. Always opt for BPA and thalate-free plastic storage containers and drink containers that keep temperature controlled, protecting your food from bacteria. We love the different varieties from Cool Gear that hold your lunch and your beverages – just stick them in the freezer overnight and the following day, they’ll keep cool for up to 12 hours. The Fridge-to-Go is one of the best inventions yet – simply place the removable cooling panel in the freezer and it will keep their lunches cool for up to 8 hours. No more warm, mushy sandwiches by lunch time. Plus, it’s estimated that 85% of packed lunches have high levels of bacteria so better food safe than sorry!
So you’re using reusable bottles and lunchbags, but how about what goes inside? Lunchskins are colorful, adorable bags in sizes from snack to sandwich made from high quality fabric used by European bakeries. The LunchBot is a nice durable option made from stainless steel with two compartments for snacks – plus it’s dishwasher safe. The Semilla snack bags are washable and made locally in San Diego. And while you’re in the car on the way to/from school, you can pack their snacks and drinks in the My Smart Snacker, the perfect-spill proof solution. My car interior is saying ‘phew’ right now.
Make it personal. Use personalized labels like Mabel’s Labels that help identify their items so if they get lost, you can retrieve them easily from the lost and found. Another nice personal touch is to slip them a caring, thoughtful note that lifts their spirits at lunchtime. Food for the soul!
Pay it forward. I can’t help but give a special shout out to companies that make tremendous products AND give back to make this planet better for our kids. Schoolbags for Kids make a gorgeous, high quality schoolbag with tons of pockets and what’s more, they donate one bag filled with supplies to a child in need for each one purchased. S’well makes perhaps the prettiest insulated drink bottle I’ve ever seen, perfect for sleek profile. Plus they give back to Water Aid, an organization that supports safe water and sanitation. Revolution Foods makes delicious, nutritious organic snacks and donates 3% to their school lunch program to deliver fresh meals to under-served schools.
Eat cleaner treats. Are you still packing fluorescent snacks and processed cake-like-confections with an artificial ingredient list a mile long? There are SOOO many great kid friendly snacks that pack a nutritious punch that we can barely name them all here! Make sure to read the labels carefully and look for nutrient dense options, like fruit snacks and fiber-filled treats with low sugar and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. What I like to do is place these in a basket and let the kids pick their own snack each day. Colorful, healthful selections means no returned treats or wasted food in the garbage. Here are just a few of our favorites, so consider this your shopping list and buy double because you can enjoy them, too!
- Peeled Snacks dried fruit – No sugar of preservatives added
- Matt’s Munchies – I’m partial to the Apple-Licious variety
- Buddy Fruits Pure Fruit Bites and Pure Blended Fruit to Go
- Stretch Island Fruit Leathers and FruitaBu
- Ella’s Organic Smoothie Fruit Pouches
- Pure Naturals Bars - So many yummy flavors, gluten free and vegan
- Orchard Bars – Made with fruit, nuts and seeds, these are power packed
- Lucy’s Gluten-free cookies, my guiltless afternoon treat
- Funky Monkey snacks – Freeze dried for a nice, crunchy texture
- Revolution Foods Yogurt-to-Go – Fun and addictive to crunch on
- Plum Organics Fruit – Grean Mish Mash – Gives a little bit o’ oomph to the fruit texture
- THE MUFFIN TOP DILEMMA: Most muffins, or what I like to call booty breakfast cake, pack a whopping 400+ calories! All natural Vitalicious VitaTops give you all the flavor without in the kind of muffin top you can cuddle up to. At just 100 calories and a gram and a half of fat each they’re a guilt-free choice for a delicious midday snack or a lunchtime dessert. Plus they contain 9 grams of fiber 4 grams of protein. Because they don’t contain any preservatives, keep them frozen and by lunchtime your VitaTop is thawed and ready to eat. Top that!
- THE SKINNY ON PRETZELS. Pretzel Crisps are a tasty, thin, all-natural flat-baked pretzel with flavors that will not be confused with the stale, beer-drenched variety from college. At only 110 calories per serving with no trans fats, saturated fat, or cholesterol, they’re packed with fiber and flavor that can handle the dip or stand alone on their own. Deli Style, available in the deli section of stores of course, and Modern Classic varieties. Savory and sweet varieties include Sesame, Garlic Parmesan, Tuscan Three Cheese and Cinnamon Toast (yum, it’s like a churro but without the guilt). Dig in.
- MOO JUICE MAKEOVER. I don’t know about you but Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution pretty much put the kabosh on flavored milk in our family, and my household did not like that one bit. But, I just found out about Mojo Milk, a chocolate probiotic powder that aids digestion, is low in calories and packs a boatload of culture – the kind that’s good for your intestines. My kids are going to freak when I tell them they can have chocolate milk now. That’s our little secret.
- FRUIT + VEGGIE LOVE. Love the idea of juice but hate the sugar? First Juice offers four juice flavors that are made from organic produce, lower in sugar than comparable product. The juices are available in 8 oz. reusable and recyclable, spill-proof, BPA-free containers which feature a patented no-spill sippy-top for on-the-go use as well as in 32 oz. bottles for home use and refills.
And of course, since I’m the Fit Foody, I have to mention the Fit Kit, a handy little fitness solution combining exercise equipment in a totable kit, bound to help help your darling college students from packing on the “Freshman 15.” Eat well, exercise, repeat.
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