As a part of our avoidance of toxic foods and at the top of this list are genetically modified ingredients, typically called GMOs, the boys go to school with homemade lunches. Although Michelle Obama has the right idea and her goal to improve school lunches for all children by including whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies is valiant, they fall short with all of the chemicals, GMOs, low-fat and no-fat conventional milk that could have hormones and antibiotics and definitely has other additives due to its low fat content. The calorie count is also low for teenagers. While my overweight 12 year old does just fine with a healthy half sandwich, fruit and maybe some veggies for lunch my very, very skinny 17 year old (he went from 16 to 17 yesterday, so new age reference) needs a lot more calories in his school lunches, and calories that last until he can get home and eat a second lunch or early supper before the real supper. There is no one-size-fits-all school lunch.
I have talked about making bread for sandwiches and then what you can put on those sandwiches (and I left out sliced hard-boiled egg sandwiches or just hard-boiled eggs themselves — so sorry), today I want to talk about all of the other stuff you can put in school lunches and, for younger children especially, snack foods.
The absolutely best foods to put in school lunches are fresh fruits and vegetables. Really, it is so simple. Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals, some trace minerals that they just won’t get anyplace else, organic fruits and vegetables are a great choice for school lunches.
Again, we have preferences between my two school-aged children: one loves carrot cucumber sticks and the other doesn’t really care for those without a dip of some kind (and I don’t send a dip to school, though I could if I had it prepared and pre-packaged the night before — especially a yogurt cheese dip — getting ideas while I type). They both love oranges and apples, but oranges the best. One like fresh lemons and grapefruit a lot — pucker up! They both love bananas. One loves my homemade yogurt with wild blueberries and the other just wants a small container of fresh berries.
Again, involve your children in their school lunch preparations and they will not only eat those lunches at school but you are teaching them to make healthy lunches for the time when they are in college and eventually enter the workforce. You don’t want them eating fast food every day as adults, do you? They need to learn how to do this themselves for the future.
GMOs: avoid non-organic corn, soy, zucchini squash, papaya, vegetable oils such as canola, soy, cottonseed, and corn, non-organic dairy products, anything with corn syrup, maltodextrin, soy lecithin.
Snacks and Desserts
Please, please, please buy organic produce and dried fruit and nuts as much as you can to reduce the amount of pesticides and chemicals your children are exposed to each day. They are bombarded wherever they go so doing what we can at home just makes sense and gives their little bodies a better chance to survive and thrive.
- Crudites: carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, celery, radishes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, tomatoes (grape, cherry, quarters)
- Yogurt or yogurt cheese dip/spread
- Fresh fruit: peeled and sectioned oranges, grapefruit, lemon, clementines, sliced apples, peaches, pears, half a banana, grapes, plums
- Dried fruit: mango, raisins, dates, pineapple, bananas
- Homemade fruit leather (use dehydrator)
- Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, whatever is in season and local especially
- Apple and pear sauce, unsweetened
- Healthy Muffins: whole grain, fruit, chia, yogurt, goat cheese, oatmeal, nuts
- Homemade cupcakes
- Organic crackers
- Cheese chunks (especially delicious paired with apples or grapes)
- Trail mix with variety of dried fruits and nuts and seeds, even organic dark chocolate chips
- Nuts, seeds: sunflower, pecan, peanuts*, almonds, pistachio, walnut, pepitas
- Organic popcorn: pop in the morning, allow to cool and bag up
- Homemade and store bought organic cookies (make sure they are truly organic to avoid GMOs)
- Organic chips: tortilla, potato, veggie
- Homemade pies, cakes, quick breads (though muffins and cupcakes are easier to eat)
These are just a few suggestions. There are so many healthy choices for school lunches and school snacks. Prepackage after baking or cooking (fully cooled first) and throw them in the freezer. Then you can just pull out what you need in the morning and those frozen snacks help keep the lunch cold. Occasionally I will buy the boys organic cookies. I open the packages as soon as I get home, package 4-5 cookies per snack bag and hide them away (otherwise they get eaten within hours by the hungry horde in my house). You can do this with chips, crackers, trail mix, etc.
*Peanuts: our middle school has a rule that no peanuts or any tree nuts of any kind are allowed in the classrooms. They can have these types of foods in the cafeteria. Know what your school’s policy is on foods that can cause deadly allergic reactions, and be very careful and respectful of this policy. Some of those kids can die in minutes if exposed to tree nuts. There are too many choices that do not include these allergens to get upset if your child’s school has a peanut-free classroom policy.