Where has the summer gone? I can’t believe our lazy mornings playing in pj’s and trips to the pool are almost gone, and the time has come to start getting the girls ready for school. Yes, plural…both of them are going to pre-k this year. It’s going to be strange not having at least one little rugrat running around the house with me in the morning, but I’m sure the four hours a couple days a week will go by fast!
The days are back of packing school lunches at night. Lunches provided by schools and most snacks provided by childcare facilities are full of additives and artificial junk, and real, nutritious food is hard to come by. Sadly, the same goes for the aisles of the grocery store. Let’s start this school year right by making the commitment to pack healthy school lunches and help our children get what they need to grow. First things first getting your children to bring lunch if they’re used to buying it at school. Here are some ideas to help make taking a lunch fun and exciting:
- Send a handwritten note on a napkin or piece of paper to go along with lunch. A simple “I love you”, or “Good luck on your test”, or maybe something more elaborate, like a family drawing, crossword or sudoku puzzle. You can find lots of great printable notes online. I have several saved in my “Kids Meal” pin board on Pinterest. Here are links to a couple, one from Darling Doodles, and another from Paper & Pomegranates.
- Send a sticker inside the lunch box. My girls LOVE stickers! I’m always amazed how happy they are to get a little sticky, colorful, piece of paper.
- Send a little something fun to share. That could be a sticker, or maybe a couple extra bags of something yummy. Whatever it is, their friends will look forward to the packed lunch just as much as your own child. And they’ll feel good about sharing with friends.
- Explain the nutritional differences in school lunch and a lunch from home to your children. It is important for them to know why you want them to have a lunch from home. You are looking out for their health and wellbeing — that’s what we do as parents!
- Organic Cheese Stick – these are a good source of protein, calcium, and most kids will not turn them down! I would recommend finding organic dairy products and paying that extra cost to avoid hormone and antibiotic treated cows, and GMO’s. I could find a six pack of organic cheese sticks for less than $5 at my store. You could drive that price down even more buy buying a block of cheese and cutting out your own sticks. Then you could use any extra cheese for other meals, and snacks.
- Hard Boiled Egg – hard-boiled eggs are great in school lunches, or you can change it up and make deviled-eggs or egg salad. Anyway you choose your child will be getting lots of protein, B12, and selenium. Conventional eggs are about $2 a dozen, or 17 cents per egg, and organic eggs are around $4 a dozen, or 34 cents per egg. Boil a few at the beginning of the week and you’re set.
- Chobani Greek Yogurt – I often see Chobani on sale at my supermarket for $1 per container on sale. When it’s on sale, go ahead and stock up, you can always freeze the yogurt if you are worried about using it before it goes bad. With up to 16 grams of protein, 20% daily calcium needs, and lots of flavors to choose from, you’re getting a lot out of your dollar. You find more information on yogurts in the Clean Yogurts post. You can cut cost even more buy purchasing a large container of yogurt instead of single serve, just make sure the yogurt you are buying is free from additives.
- Peanut Butter – if your school is not nut-free and your child doesn’t have an allergy to nuts, this is a wonderful option. Please be sure to watch for partially hydrogenated oils in peanut butter. Make sure you find one that is natural or organic. I found a natural peanut butter for $3.20 at my local supermarket, and it had 13 servings. That’s only a quarter a serving for 7 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.
FRUIT AND VEGGIES:
- Banana – at less than $1 per pound for bananas (average 2 – 3 bananas per pound) these are a very affordable and nutritious option. Bananas are a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, C, and potassium.
- Orange – these are a tasty, sweet, and vitamin packed add-in to the lunch box. One orange has more than 100% daily vitamin C, and 5 grams of fiber. That’ll keep bellies full and immune systems working well! BEWARE – Florida oranges are allowed to use red no.2 to color the oranges a desirable color. Most of the time you will see “Dye Added” on the packaging but to be safe buy organic or look for other options. California and Arizona growers are not allowed to use this dye.
- Pineapple – this sweet fruit is on the clean 15, so you do not have to worry about buying organic, and most kids love it! One pineapple will give you four to six servings and cost about $3.
- Apples – these are on the dirty dozen so buy organic, if possible. Even organic apples, when in season, are less than $1 an apple. Apples are great on their own or for making apple sandwiches. A medium apple has 15% daily vitamin C, and 4 grams of fiber….you know the saying, “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.”
- Berries – high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, berries are a great option. They are on the dirty dozen, and not always the cheapest fruit, but they are worth the money!
- Raisins – these are a great add-in for cereal, ants on a log, yogurt, and perfect little sweet bite on their own! I buy a 15 oz. can of Newman’s Own Organic Raisins for around $5, which has about 10 servings. These raisins are always sweet, and never dried out! You can also find them in bulk on amazon.
- Organic baby carrots – at $3, or less, for a bag with 6 servings, organic baby carrots are a great option. They will hold up well in lunches and provide lots of vitamin A, fiber, and more vitamin. Try grating them onto a sandwich or wrap, or dipping them into hummus for lunches.
- Organic Celery sticks – great alone, chopped up into a salad, dipped in dressing or hummus, or even with peanut butter on top, celery has a lot of options for lunch time. Make sure to buy organic since celery in on the dirty dozen. Organic celery is still less than $1 per serving for lots of fiber and vitamins.
- Cucumber slices – these are a favorite around our house. My girl’s love them plain, or dipped in hummus. I love them with a little vinegar and salt and pepper, yum! They are also great to add to sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
- Enjoy Life Food Seed and Fruit – this is a great add-in for yogurt, on top of cereal, or on it’s own. This tasty mixture is completely allergen-free, and will add some protein, fiber and flavor into school lunches.
- Cascadian Farms Granola Bar – these are a great option for school lunches. They are slightly smaller than most other bars, making it a great option for little hands. They have 3 grams of fiber in each bar, and only 7 grams of sugar in the oatmeal raisin bars. I find them at my local supermarket for $3 for a box of 8! You can find more information on bars in the Clean Snack Bars post.
- Cereal – organic cereals can be expensive compared to conventional cereals, but with 9 – 10 servings a box it’s not so bad when you break it down to price per serving. Most are about $5 a box, and you can find lots of great options with low sugar and full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Send cereal in a container and the milk separate, then at lunch time they can add the two together for a quick and easy lunch. Top the cereal with berries, or the fruit and seed mix You find more information on cereals in the Clean Cereal post.
- Bread – bread is great for sandwiches, french toast, and even plain in school lunch. Even if you are paying $5 for a loaf of good quality bread without all the additives, you are still getting enough bread for 8 sandwiches, making it less than $1 per serving. You can find more information on breads in the Clean Bread post. I did find some good options that were more affordable at $2.50 a loaf but still free from additives.
- Leftovers – have any pancakes, muffins, pasta, soup, rice, or quinoa leftover? School lunches are the perfect place to use up those leftovers! Or if you plan on cooking pasta or soup one night for dinner, or making muffins or pancakes, plan to make extras to save for a school lunch.
Make your family’s health a priority, and you will see and feel the difference. Commit to making school lunches with real food, real ingredients, and grown by real farmers. Don’t spend your money supporting chemicals and additives linked to so many diseases and health issues – you deserve better!
Remember, what you pack lunch in is just as important! Check out Safemama.com for a great list of safe lunch gear.