Burned out on packing lunches yet?

29 Sep

So I’ve got about a month of packing lunches under my belt for this school year. Am I running out of ideas yet? Nope. I’m still packing. But, I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I don’t pack your typical sack lunch.

When I was in grade school, my parents had begun to fully embrace the natural foods approach to eating. We ate primarily homemade meals, we had a huge garden where we grew wonderful vegetables that we canned for use throughout the winter, and we raised *happy* chickens for stocking the freezer. As an adult, I’m now embracing this way of eating, but as an adolescent, I didn’t understand it. My packed lunches were different than everyone else’s. Sometimes I felt out of place eating my sandwich on homemade wheat bread when everyone else had Wonder bread with Jif peanut butter and Smucker’s grape jelly. And sometimes I got teased about the contents of my lunch.

Did I lose any friends over it? No. Did I learn anything from it? Absolutely.

My parents are very smart. They knew — long before it became “popular” — that whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and chemical-free foods were what our bodies needed. I wish I had understood that better when I was a child.

Kids can be cruel. They tease about every little thing that makes someone “different” than they are. Two of my kids were teased last year for bringing Activia yogurt cups in their lunches. I bought it because it was strawberry flavored and on sale that week. Why did they get teased? Because the TV ads promote it as a “digestive aid” rather than something fun for kids to eat. Well, here’s a news flash, kids — ALL yogurt is a digestive aid. Yogurt contains live and active cultures. These cultures are probiotics that promote a healthy digestive tract. Even lunchbox favorites like Gogurt and Crush Cups have live and active cultures. (They also have artificial colors and flavors, so don’t buy them.)

I can provide my kids with a packed lunch that isn’t different enough from everyone else’s to cause them to get teased. I learned a lesson from the Activia incident. I pack healthy lunches that look similar to every other kid’s lunch. (See below for my kids’ favorites.)

I can give my kids a response to “why don’t you ever bring Doritos in your lunch?”
“Because I don’t eat garbage.”
“Because chemicals are for cleaning toilets, not for eating.”
“Because I’m smart.”

I want my kids to understand the choices I make for my family so when they go off to college, they are able to make healthy food choices on their own, and to defend their choices with facts.

As I mentioned above, sack lunches in the 70’s generally contained a sandwich made of peanut butter and jelly or bologna and catsup on white bread, some kind of chips or Cheetos, and a Little Debbie snack cake or Ho-Ho. I don’t remember anyone having fresh fruit (besides me), but I do remember kids bringing in “fruit cocktail” in a little metal can with a pull-tab lid. Based on what I witnessed at Logan’s field trip last spring, sack lunches haven’t changed too much since the 70’s, except for the number of overly-processed options available to kids these days.

Luckily, there are a lot of healthful options today — such as whole wheat bread that’s as soft as Wonder, for making a healthier PB&J sandwich. Now that she’s in 6th grade, Madison’s tastes have matured a little. She’s not really into PB&J anymore so she often chooses a wrap or more adult-like sandwich. (You can put just about anything in a wrap and get a smile from your kids!)

As for drinks, I was sending 100% juice boxes, but my kids had a better idea. Logan said, “Mom, all these juice boxes are filling up the landfills.” So we bought reusable water bottles that fit in their lunch boxes. The night before, I fill them about halfway with either water, juice or Kool-Aid made with stevia, and stick them in the freezer. In the morning, I fill it the rest of the way and it stays cold all day, plus acts as an icepack for their food.

Here are some of my kids’ favorite packed lunch items:

PB&J — soft whole wheat bread + Skippy Natural peanut butter + All-Fruit Jelly
Sub Sandwich — whole wheat hamburger bun + mayo + nitrate/nitrite free lunchmeat + cheddar cheese + lettuce
Lunchmeat Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + light cream cheese + nitrate/nitrite free ham + lettuce
Bagel + light cream cheese or Skippy Natural peanut butter
PB Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + Skippy Natural peanut butter + sliced banana or diced apple + raisins
Strawberry Roll-up — whole wheat tortilla + light cream cheese + sliced fresh strawberries
Mediterranean Wrap ( for Madison) — whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus + lettuce, cucumber slices and shredded carrots

Sun Chips, Baked Veggie Chips, Pretzels
Baby Carrots with Hummus


Apple, Banana, Orange Slices, Grapes, Strawberries, Raisins, Pineapple Chunks

Pretzels with small container of peanut butter
100% Fruit Leather
Granola Bar (Kashi or Nature Valley crunchy, Trader Joe’s bars, etc)
Homemade Chex Mix


3 Responses to “Burned out on packing lunches yet?”

  1. Shannon September 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    I mostly like this post 🙂 but do watch what you teach your kids to reply. Any one of those replies would turn me off if they were said to me or my kids. You can stand up for what you believe in without implying that other kids aren’t smart, or their food is garbage. That would definitely go farther toward making friends and not getting teased!

    Other than that, what soft wheat bread have you found? I have no luck with that. Almost all the good tasting whole wheat breads we’ve found are full of chemicals to make them soft. The few that are just natural ingredients are the ones my kids won’t eat. Sigh. My daughter will eat whole wheat wraps though. And whole wheat hamburger buns aren’t bad (but again they tend to be full of dough conditioners and such – at least the ones I’ve found).

    My kids also like avocado sushi. We make our own which is much less expensive than buying it. That’s a nice, filling meal for lunch.

  2. tamiespears September 30, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    Thanks for your comment. You’re right – the comments I suggested my kids try aren’t nice at all. But these aren’t things they say to friends. These are comments meant to stop a bully in their tracks. When your kids come home crying because the same people have harassed them again, it’s time to give them a good comeback. These comebacks are intended for those kids who are relentless in their teasing and nasty comments. My kids’ true friends already know that they have healthy lunches and if one of them asked my kids “why,” my kids would give a nice, honest, and probably educational, answer.

    The whole wheat bread I buy certainly isn’t the best of the best, but it’s the best I can get of the kind they will eat. The first ingredient is whole wheat flour. My kids are not going to eat a bread that’s “rough” either. I figure you have to choose your battles – there are some foods I refuse to “give” on and some that I get the best brand that they will still eat.

  3. Shannon October 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    The school isn’t doing anything about the bully? We’re having a problem with a kid at the Y. My son told the adult in charge who said he would do something but didn’t so I am going to talk to him next. I wish people took this stuff more seriously. Good luck to your kids.

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