How to Pack a Lunch Good for the Body and Earth

by Angela Stanford

Kids have been back to school now for a few weeks and you may already be looking for new ways to pack lunches made of whole foods versus processed foods laden with artificial ingredients wrapped in excessive packaging that could harm your children and their environment.   Here are a few tips for parents and caregivers on how to be successful at packing a lunch that is good for the body and good for the earth.

Nutritious lunch meets the 4 color challenge in reusable containers complete with stainless cutlery and cloth napkin. Plastic on cheese is stick is BPA free and recyclable.


On Sunday, take ten minutes and plan 5 lunches for the week made from nutrient dense, whole foods your kids enjoy and make sure you have enough on hand for the week.  When planning think of the following:

  • Think Components – veggie, fruit, protein, grain, water, (organic when possible)
  • Think 4 Colors – try to put 4 different colors in the lunchbox and take Mother Nature’s lead on encouraging kids to eat a rainbow of color for better health.  E.g. turkey sandwich on 100% sprouted whole grain bread (brown), red apple, green edamame, orange baby carrots.  You can save money too by looking for fruits and veggies in season.  They are most often the produce items on sale.
  • Mix it Up – variety is the key to getting more nutrition in each bite and keeping choices fresh helps kids get more excited about what is in their lunchbox.

    -Switch up the Sandwich
    – instead of bread, use 100% sprouted whole grain pita pockets, hotdog buns, English muffins, tortillas, 100 calorie rounds or a double layer of romaine lettuce leaves
    -Hot alternativesserve soups, burritos, pasta and stir-fries. Heat up a stainless steel thermos with boiling hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and then place the heated up leftovers in the warm container.  Warming up the container ensures food will still be warm at lunchtime.
    -Last night’s leftovers – leftovers make great lunches.  You can serve them hot or cold depending on your child’s preference.  Some kids like cold spaghetti with meatballs.
    -Dips & Spreads – spread on flavor, protein, fruits and veggies with foods like pesto, hummus, roasted red-pepper walnut spread, salsa and 100% fruit spread.  Remember choose organic when possible to avoid artificial ingredients and GMO’s.
  • Bring a Beverage – white milk or water only – flavored milk and juices (even if organic 100% juice) are filled with sugar and can contain as much sugar as soda!
  • Skip the Treatscookies, candies and chips don’t belong in a lunch.  Save the treat for treat-time, not mealtime.  Fruit is a great sweet addition to a lunch that is already wrapped up by Mother Nature in natural packaging (skin) containing fiber to help stabilize the entry of those natural sugars as they enter the bloodstream.

A lunch packed full of nutrition with colorful food choices in reusable containers complete with stainless cutlery and cloth napkin. Yogurt container is BPA free and recyclable.


  • Lunchboxes Not Ziplocs! – choose a sturdy lunchbox, free of BPA and PVC that is easy to clean with mild soap and water.
  • Reusable Containers – choose stainless steel containers for hot foods and BPA and PVC free plastic, reusable containers for cold foods, so these chemical don’t leach into the food.  Buy larger containers of food and portion them into your reusable containers rather than buying single serving sizes.  This reduces the amount of containers you chuck into the landfill and will save you some $$$$ too!  If you do use single portion sized containers, make sure they are compostable or recyclable. Avoid using zip locks because they stay in the landfill forever!
  • Beverage Containers – choose stainless steel (Kleen Kanteen is a popular brand) or BPA and PVC free plastic as a lighter weight option. (Nalgeen is a popular brand)  (Sigg) is another brand that is lightweight aluminum construction with a liner that keeps the aluminum from leaching into the beverage.  All of these containers are reusable and do not use resources like electricity and water to recycle plastic water bottles.  Using stainless steel versus single use plastic water bottles also reduces the risk of chemicals in the plastic leaching into the water you child drinks.  Replace beverage containers if they become dented or cracked.
  • Silverware – buy two inexpensive sets of stainless steel silverware for each child in your family – 1 for the lunchbox and 1 for the dishwasher to ease cleanup during the busy weekdays.  This keeps plastic silverware out of the landfill leaching chemicals into the earth as they breakdown.
  • Cloth Napkins– 2 for every kid – switch out when soiled and wash all with other towels at the end of the week to conserve water.  Using cloth saves trees and energy and water used to turn the trees into paper napkins.Give it a try!  Look at the lunches in this blog and try to pack your children a lunch that is both good for their bodies and good for the earth!

Sycamore Elementary Spring Garden Club

sprinkling water while preparing the Earthbox

On Thursday April 19th, science teacher Kim Lawrence joined me and 24 fourth graders at Sycamore Valley Elementary School to kick off the Spring session of our Garden Club that meets on Thursdays at lunchtime. We have 6 weeks of fun planned to teach these eager little gardeners about where their food comes from, the power food has to make them healthy and strong, and how to care for the earth to grow more nutritious food.

During our time together, we will be growing tomatoes & herbs in Earthboxes, learning about worm composting by feeding scraps from the kids lunches and planting a living wall to adorn our school with live art!

While the kids ate their lunches, I talked to them about the different parts of a plant and each of them shared examples of some of their favorite foods of these parts – root (carrot), stem (celery), leaf (spinach), blossom (cauliflower), fruit (strawberry), seeds (sunflower seeds).

adding soil to the Earthbox

After eating, we assembled the two Earthboxes that the fourth graders will plant tomatoes and herbs in next week. The kids then took turns filling the Earthbox with handfuls of organic soil, dolomite and organic fertilizer. In our last few minutes together, they learned about how the plants will get their water from a reservoir at the bottom of the box rather than from water sprinkled on top of the seeds. More on watering and developing a watering schedule in a couple of weeks!

making garden club sign

The kids finished up by decorating and signing their name to our Garden Club sign that will hang above the Living Wall we will be planting outside the MPR.

creativity displayed on school campus using recycled materials to celebrate Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day this week, I couldn’t help but post this photo of all the terrific artwork displayed on the school grounds.  It really brought to life how colorful life can be when we teach our children how to honor and care of our Earth.

Next week – planting the pizza garden!