January 10th, 2012

Tips for a Green & Healthy Bag Lunch

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Reusable green lunch

It’s been a long haul, but after 8 plus years our kids are finally on semi auto-pilot in the morning. There are still a few pieces of our morning routine where guidance is needed, but our three boys make a good effort to independently get their “jobs” done.

One of those morning jobs is packing their own lunch for school. This is by far the most time consuming task in the morning. I’ve tried coaxing them into packing it at night, but it just doesn’t work. So morning it is.

It’s not pretty in our kitchen when the lunch packing begins. It truly looks like a tornado came through and tossed food all over the counters and floor. But it’s worth it. Through making their own lunch they are beginning to understand what a green and healthy lunch looks like.

Reusable lunch bagWhat is a green lunch?

Waste free

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste.

Every since my kids have been in school we have focused on making their lunches as waste free as possible.We have a few reusable lunch bags -each child has their own assigned color. When buying their lunch bags I wanted to be sure that their food wouldn’t come in contact with any unsafe materials or chemicals. Their reusable lunch bagsare:

If you pull apart a typical lunch box you will find a sandwich in a plastic baggie, all sorts of individually wrapped snacks, possibly some fruit and a drink container.  Once lunch is over the wrappers from each of these items makes its way into the garbage can.

Making a lunch box zero-waste through the use of reusable products will minimize the amount of garbage kids create through their school lunch.

Here are some of my favorite eco-friendly reusable lunch box products. I also make sure to pack a reusable napkin, which occasionally gets tossed and doesn’t make it home.

What’s in our green and healthy lunch bag?

healthy green lunchI wish I could say our lunches are creative and exciting, but they’re really not. My kids tend to be creatures of habit and really don’t like to mix it up much. There are a few staples that end up in their lunches on a daily basis.

  • Fresh, organic fruit. My oldest likes watermelon and my youngest likes oranges, bananas and clementines.
  • Cut up, unpeeled carrots.
  • Healthy snacks.
  • A roasted turkey sandwich on an organic, whole wheat wrap.
  • The occasional treat (sometimes not so green and healthy).
  • Water in a stainless steel, reusable water bottle. Klean Kanteen
    is my reusable bottle of choice.

Green lunch bag tips

  • Make healthy choices when it comes to snacks and treats.
  • Don’t buy individually packaged snacks i.e. fruit cups, single serving cookies, chips and crackers. There is a lot of wasted packaging and the cost per item is much more expensive than buying in bulk.
  • We try to buy organic when we can. Remember Organic doesn’t always mean healthy. There are organic foods out there that that are processed, contain lots of sugar and are unhealthy.  Reading food labels is a must.  Also, be wary of long lists of ingredients that you don’t recognize.
  • Be prepared to lose a few items. I try to label everything with a sharpie. Until your children are used to their new green lunch box, there will be a few reusables that don’t make it home.

What goes in your green and healthy lunch bag?

There are a few affiliate links in this post. If you use them a few pennies will go in my pocket. Thanks!

[Photo used under Creative Commons from avilasal/Flickr]

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13 Responses to “Tips for a Green & Healthy Bag Lunch”

  1. Great post! I’ve been packing waste-free lunches for my boys for quite a while and it feels great! I love the idea of using wraps more often – adding them to my grocery list!

  2. Thanks Cathy. It does feel good to pack a waste-free lunch. We have had so many interesting discussions at home about ‘why’ and ‘what’ to pack to make our lunch healthy and green. Sometimes my kids get it and other times all they want are individually packed sugary treats. Hopefully someday they’ll really get it. Wraps are great-you can throw in whatever they like and voila-a sandwich!

  3. >>I wish I could say our lunches are creative and exciting, but they’re really not.
    Oh my dear, don’t sweat it. Your kiddos benefit so much more from the good stuff you DO pack (even if it often repeats) than they would from anything they bought at school. Don’t lose sight of the fact that what you’re mostly packing is a little of your time and attention, which is something school lunches couldn’t ever provide!

    Good article, nice tips – Thanks!

  4. Thanks Nancy! Great addition-more reasons to carry in a lunch from home rather than eat the school lunch. I know there are huge nutritional benefits in their lunch boxes vs. what they could be eating at school. I think I was a pretty picky eater as a child and probably brought the same thing every day too!

  5. I love it! My good friend has the reusable sandwich bags… When I get done from traveling I am going to invest in some of those. Why not? It will all save money in the long run and save our precious earth at the same time. Great ides, thanks for sharing!

  6. You’re welcome Meg. Where are you traveling to these days? Swapping baggies for reusables is a pretty simple way to make a big impact on the earth.

  7. When I was a child, my parents used milk bags for sandwiches because they were almost exactly the same width as the slices of bread! I think we reused glass juice bottles for water, and my mom bought fruit that didn’t need packaging, like apples and oranges (once I was old enough to peel oranges myself). Despite eating the same lunch every day for years, decades later I seem to have turned out okay. :)

  8. Andrea-you parents early in adopting reusable lunch bag ideas! Glad to hear you ate the same lunch every day for years-my kids are on the same track. We’re hoping they also turn out OK :)

  9. [...] elementary school?  We have worked hard over the years to make our children’s lunch boxes as waste-free as possible.  Instead of using single-use items in their lunch boxes try using reusables: a [...]

  10. [...] Did you know that children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste. [...]

  11. […] of the tired PB&J, use almond butter and sliced bananas on whole grain bread. Yum! Lori from Groovy Green Livin has some basic, no-nonsense, and concrete ideas for a healthy […]

  12. […] Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste. […]

  13. […] All three boys pack their own waste free lunch with a little guidance from mom and dad. The process isn’t pretty. Food and crumbs are generally everywhere. If you’re able to let this piece go (I still have a hard time with it!) the independant lunch packing process is worth it. Through making their own lunch they are beginning to understand what a green and healthy lunch looks like. […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

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