Healthy In Candy Land

Caring for our health & our planet one meal at a time

   Jan 14 2011

Kids’ School Lunch Overhaul

I was thrilled to hear that yesterday the US Department of Agriculture announced new guidelines for school lunches for the first time in 15 years. Yahoo! I guess all my letter writing to government officials did some good!

Since Cameron started elementary school 2 1/2 years ago and eating lunch away from home, I have been completely appalled at some of the food the school serves to kids, passing it off as nutritious. I know it has gotten much better in recent years but yet there is still a ways to go. (Would someone please just learn that jello is not a food and has absolutely no redeeming nutritional qualities?!) There are a few times a month that the menu is borderline acceptable that we allow Cameron to buy hot lunch only because he really wants to. I think it is a good independence builder and practice for making good choices on his own. He does pretty well!

The majority of the time though, we pack his lunch at home. I went through a period of time just loathing having to pack yet another lunch of mediocre food–I didn’t feel good about sending him off with PB & J every. single. day. even though he was completely happy with it. Then, I had lunch at school with Cameron one day and was shocked and deeply saddened at what other kids were bringing from home for lunch (maybe even worse than the school hot lunches!), and suddenly Cameron’s lunches didn’t seem so bad at all. One kid’s lunch included: a bag of chips, a package of cookies, a juice box, and a package of fruit snacks. Completely processed, full of sugar and sodium, with absolutely no nutritional value. How can a kid stay awake, much less learn anything during the afternoon after a lunch like that? Other lunches at our table included sandwiches (on white bread with processed meat products) but the majority of them also included highly processed, pre-packaged “convenience” “food”.

 That day I decided to make it a challenge for myself to come up with a wider variety of lunch options, lunches that would make me feel better about them, but more importantly, lunches that would fuel Cameron better. (Don’t get me wrong, I think PB & J is an entire food group of it’s own, and completely fine. Just maybe not every day.) My requirements are to include a vegetarian protein, a fresh fruit, a vegetable (sometimes just one or the other is okay) and water and the rest just happens on it’s own.

For the past couple weeks I have been taking photos of the lunches I pack for Cameron. He’s been using this Goodbyn lunch box this year, which I just love and so does he.

It comes in a rainbow of colors, and Cameron chose the charcoal. It has separate compartments to put everything in, so you don’t need any additional packaging–no more lost tupperware or using tons of plastic baggies. The lid fits securely and has a handle for easy carrying. Cameron liked that it came with stickers so he could personalize it. It is easy to wash and is dishwasher safe too.

On to the lunches! Lunch #1:

healthy kids lunches, Goodbyn lunch, eco friendly lunch box,

This includes a bean and cheese burrito in a whole wheat tortilla, cucumber slices, 2 clementines, a handful of cashews and water. (Cameron often buys milk at school, but I still always include a water bottle.) Here is the burrito in the making: Easy, peasy.

Lunch #2:

healthy kids lunch

A hard-cooked egg, a clementine, sugar snap peas, dried pineapple, a organic yogurt, and water bottle.

Lunch #3:

healthy kids lunches

Ak-mak whole grain crackers, organic cheddar cheese, sugar snap peas, handful of mixed nuts, and water bottle.

Lunch #4:

healthy kids lunches

A whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter and rolled up with a banana inside, string cheese, apple and water.

Lunch #5:

healthy kids lunches

Whole wheat macaroni and broccoli sprinkled with nutritional yeast “Parmesan”, baby carrots, celery spread with peanut butter, yogurt and water.

Lunch #6:

Healthy kids lunches, goodbyn lunch box

Old Faithful: Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, frozen peas (will thaw by lunch time), handful of cinnamon almonds, 2 clementines and a yogurt tube.

Nothing too earth-shaking, but they are all healthy, mostly whole foods that my son will actually eat and there is no high fructose corn syrup in sight. They don’t take very long to make, maybe 5-6 minutes max. It is my hope that other kids at school will notice Cameron’s lunches and maybe request something similar for their lunches. Perhaps I will continue this post as a once monthly edition to include any different lunches we come up with. Let me know if you come up with any ideas and I will post those too!

I came across a fun blog called Another Lunch that does really fun (but quite involved!) things with kids lunches. You might get more ideas from there. We particularly loved the Dark Side in a Bento box.

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  1. Jeanette says:

    Obivoisly with two grown adult children and no grandchildren I was Out of the loop about lunches. I have been enjoying the opportunity to spend a couple of days a year in the past couple of years at special guest day at my nephew Cameron’s school. Lunches that kids brought to school or the hot lunches they were eating were abhorric! I know most of this convenience processed life is to save time and can be a bit easier on the budget, some of the examples you are showing for lunch ideas are so doable. Frozen peas…what? A dollar maybe on sale. just making these, minor good food choices will make such a difference in your kids life. I do know the kids were quite jelaous at our lunch table while Cam was enjoying cheese tortillini and they couldn’t stand to swallow their pizza. (but the high fructose corn syrup laden bar cake was gone)

  2. Good for you! I was a teacher and it was just horrible to watch our country’s children’s eating habits. The kids who packed their lunches really had no better lunches than the hot lunch options. It was all bad. In my 7 years of teaching, I only remember one kid (ONE!) who was an exception to the rule. So sad.

  3. Candy says:

    Oh my gosh, Maryea, ONE? That really is sad!

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