Growing Up Green: Sustainable Lunches 101

Sustainable Lunches

Lunches that are good for the kids and the earth.

School lunches are a challenge at the best of times. They need to be packed every day. This takes time. Doing it well takes dedication. Couple this with the fact that unsupervised eating means that kids can skip, trade or ditch their lunches in favor of a friends’ meal or cafeteria fare and lunch at school is every green parent’s nightmare. Do not be daunted – you can pack lunches that are good for the body, good the earth and desired by the kids! The key to success with the sustainable lunch is to keep your kid convinced, for as long as possible, that their lunch is actually better than anybody else’s! Hopefully, when they catch on, one of two things will have happened:

  1. They will have learned enough about your value system to appreciate a healthy sustainable lunch or,
  2. Their lunch actually will be better than everybody else’s.

Our son still bases food preferences primarily on taste, color and shape - but he’s also becoming increasingly conscious of the nutritional value of eating. Sure he occasionally gives a sidelong glance to the gummy ‘fruit snacks’ shaped like SpongeBob. But he understands why we don’t eat them. And he knows – regardless of whether or not it’s true – that his lunch bests anything on store shelf with a character on it.

Keys to Success

So how does one go about making a healthy, homemade, mostly waste-free lunch endlessly exciting? The number one rule is variety. Beyond that, it’s not as difficult as you may think:

  • Number 1

    Plan Ahead - When making a weekly meal plan, make a lunch plan too.

  • Number 2

    Encourage Participation - Include the kids in the planning, prep and shopping. They take pride in a lunch if they’ve been a part of creating it.

  • Number 3

    Bake - Bake a lot and freeze it. Include a homemade treat in their lunch.

  • Number 4

    Shapes - Use mini cookie cutters to mold vegetables or mini sandwiches into fun shapes.

  • Number 5

    Color - Pack a rainbow. Or create monotone lunches using only the color of the day.

  • Number 6

    Send Love - Add notes, stickers, pictures or other tokens of your love.

  • Number 7

    Try it Hot - At least once a week, send a thermos with a hot meal.

  • Number 8

    Cool Containers - Kid-cool utensils, thermoses, water bottles or other containers add excitement. Also try a Tiffin – a multi-tiered container popular in India.

  • Number 9

    Stick It - Shish-k-bobs make fruit, vegetables or cheese cubes exciting.

  • Number 10

    Chocolate - Never underestimate the power of chocolate. Two chocolate chips mixed into trail mix and it’s suddenly amazing. A little cocoa in the yogurt and you’re the best mom ever. Dip a couple pieces of fruit in a little melted chocolate and your kids won’t look twice at the package of preservative-laden, plastic-wrapped, has-never-been-fruit, fruit-flavored candy thing.


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About the Author Tovah Paglaro, is a writer and the Family Editor of T&G. She is based in Vancouver Canada, and writes about her Family's adventures in Growing Up Green and its weekly supplement Crafty Kids crafts, gardening, home, and sustainable values. Visit her blog Gumboot Adventures for more of her work. Follow her on Twitter: @tovahp Also connect with her on Thrifty & Green's facebook page.