But I can certainly see the frustration and challenge of many moms who try to provide their kids with healthier lunch options even when you can’t see your kids eating. Sometimes it can be overwhelming on where to start. Here are some practical tips you can implement one at a time and slowly convert your kids [and maybe yourself] to a healthier lunch.
- Ditch Paper and Plastic. Not only are disposables filling all our landfills, most aren’t very healthy for your kids either. Even so called BPA free plastics leach chemicals into food and liquids, especially when heated. Not to mention it is expensive to keep on buying disposable products year after year. Stainless steel can become your best friend, it is so easy to clean and doesn’t leach anything. There are many options available, from thermal leak-free containers for hot/cold foods, to stainless steel water bottles that serve year after year.
- Avoid Pre-packaging. Packaged foods are overpriced. You do pay a premium for those. They most often contain a lot of synthetic, non-food additives as well. For snacks, you’re better off buying bulk nuts, raisins, dry fruit, crackers and putting them in reusable containers or washable fabric snack packs.
- Just Say NO to Coloring and Preservatives. Anything that says ‘Red 40’, ‘Blue 1’, or similar color lingo – just put it back on the shelf. It doesn’t belong in any living thing’s stomach, moreover you children’s. Food dyes may be linked to behavioral issues and have already been banned in Europe. Large food companies actually make dye free versions of kid-marketed foods in Europe, but still douse American kids with these synthetic chemicals. Not very fair. Generally if you avoid prepackaged foods, this should get taken care of. Let’s not even go into the side effects of preservatives.
- Go Meatless. Meatless is not just for home meals anymore! If you are not vegan/vegetarian already, your kids don’t really need meat every day. You are better off giving them higher quality antibiotic and nitrate free and/or organic meat less often than giving them the cheap stuff every day. Here are some good reasons to go meatless, even if not with every meal.
- Avoid the Dirty Dozen. Fruits and veggies are a must in any kid’s lunch, just make sure you are not over-dosing your kids on pesticides – which have been linked to ADD, ADHD, and learning problems. Buy anything from the Dirty Dozen list – organic whenever possible and don’t feel bad for buying non-organic items from the Clean Fifteen (except for maybe the sweet corn, which may be genetically modified). Here is a printable version of the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 for your next shopping trip.
- Ask for a Green Clean Cafeteria. Sometimes, unless the parents insist – change in public schools is a forgotten word. If you want a healthier environment for your kids, you’ll have to ask for it (or beg sometimes). The public school cafeteria is a good place to start with implementing non-toxic cleaning products. Your kids touch all those surfaces sprayed with toxic chemicals and then eat their food there while inhaling toxic fumes. You can point out EWG studies on school pollution and contact green cleaning companies that will often give schools big discounts. Why not use EWG green school guide and go for converting the whole school to green cleaning?
A lot to think about for sure, but you don’t have to do it all at once – and certainly don’t limit it to your kids’ lunch, make yours healthy too. If you start with number one and do just one thing each month – you’ll have a much healthier and greener school lunch for your kids in six months!