Nature Knows Best: Thinking Outside The Lunch Box

I remember feeling so loved in grade school eating lunch my dad packed for me. But, now as a parent, I have to admit that this task can become boring and monotonous after a while…okay, after only 2 weeks. Here are some ideas to help you have a great, healthy lunch whether you homeschool or attend school.

The first step is choosing your equipment. I had brown paper bags back in the day and my sandwich was usually squished. There are the standard lunch boxes, reusable bags, thermoses, and my personal favorite are bento boxes. I recommend purchasing small reusable ice packs.

Bento lunches originated in Japan and help us eat a rounded meal having a space for several food groups. The plastic containers can be purchased at many stores and have several compartments that are perfect for keeping food separated and organized. I love that they eliminate the need for Ziplocs which are not good for the environment and the bento boxes can be recycled if they get damaged.

Here are some tips for healthy lunches that are anything but boring. It’s important to remember that protein is absolutely essential.

Sandwiches are certainly good for lunches but as a friend of mine said, “I get tired of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” I totally agree. Chicken salad, egg salad or nitrate-free lunch meat, cheese and mayo can be a big hit with some kids. Don’t forget to use an ice pack for anything with mayonnaise. For young children sometimes cutting sandwiches into fun, shapes are all they need to make a meal more appetizing.

Wraps are always in style and fun to include when sandwiches get boring. The ideas are endless – classic turkey, lettuce and cheese, peanut or almond butter and jelly, cream cheese with dill, refried beans with cheese and much more.

Another idea is packing soup leftovers from dinner in a thermos. I just warm it in a saucepan in the morning and voila. This is perfect in the fall and winter.

Organic corn chips and dip can pack a punch of protein. Texas Caviar, guacamole and hummus would all be great picks. Almond butter or peanut butter can be used as dips for pretzels. Trail mix, nitrate-free beef and turkey jerky are quick protein sources.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are important to include. Veggie sticks are fun to dip in ranch dressing. Apple slices quickly soaked in pineapple juice don’t turn brown as fast. Frozen fruit chunks like pineapple and mango are just about perfectly de-thawed by lunch. Believe it or not, my kids love a green salad in their lunch. The dressing can be packed in a small container with a lid.

If your family includes dairy in their diet then cheese chunks and string cheese are favorites for little fingers. Yogurt tubes can be frozen and are ready to eat by lunch and they may even pass as an ice pack.

Don’t forget something healthy to drink. I may never understand why companies add sugar to already sweet fruit juice. Please read the labels. Look for 100% juice with no add-ins, even artificial colors. Pure water would be even better.

If you are super creative a few lunches could be themed for colors and countries – Asia, Mexico, Italy, etc. I tried to be creative and delegated lunch making to the kids themselves. They ended up grabbing an apple or grapefruit on their way out of the door so it didn’t produce the desired result but it may work for you!

Shopping at different stores may help you get inspired and find new products to try. Just remember, the meal prepping, planning and making may seem endless but food is fuel to the body, especially for growing ones.

Here’s to another school year…we can do this!

Brooke DeLong, N.D.

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” ~Julia Child

Texas Caviar Recipe

  • 3 cans of organic assorted beans (black, pinto, black eye peas or garbanzo peas)
  • 2 cups of organic corn
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 1 bottle Italian dressing
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: chopped jalapeño


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