Back To School: LUNCH Bunch!

{I posted this last September, but it’s got some good reminders. I’ve also added a couple of “connecting rituals” for meal-time. The “My Square Meal” lunch boxes are still working, though ones needs a rubber band, and I threw out the cute covers/ carriers for them because I let them get too dirt y last year! Any other favorite lunch boxes out there?}

Okay, are making school lunches a pain in your you-know-what? Right now, I only have to do it three days a week for my kids, and Dustin often does it for me. He’s great about letting the kids choose some of the ingredients and elements, actually cooking things like hard-boiled eggs, and then showing them and getting them excited about eating them. Mommy is usually scrounging for things to put in the little compartments of our cutie-patootie “My Square Meal” lunch boxes while simultaneously feeding the kids breakfast and gulping some coffee for myself – my main go-tos are humus, whole grain toast, raisins, and carrots – BORING! (Note to self: re-visit the “My Square Meal” site – it has pics that help inspire you to pack healthy, simple, creative lunches!) And often, it seems no matter who has put the little or lot of effort into packing them, the boxes come home with only a few bites missing. How can this be? (Too many goldfish at snack-time, probably.)

Today, as I was fixing myself a healthy salad for lunch with the kids at school and listening to “Think” on KERA, I heard author Amy Kalafa talking about her new book “Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for our Children’s Health”. (Confessional note: I finished listening to it this afternoon as I was eating a piece of apple pie a la mode.) A couple of years ago Kalafa helped to make this a hot topic with her documentary film Two Angry Moms.  The topic has been on my mind since watching Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution this summer – did you see the disgusting amount of sugar that overloaded the two school buses, representing the amount of sugar kids in L.A. get in just one week in their flavored milks? Scary! Her points trickle down to us parents who still do most of the feeding at home, too…

  • Use “feeding time” as an opportunity to educate kids about healthy eating habits – duh! This seems like a no-brainer, but does take being intentional. And most schools are missing such a huge opportunity to help shape kids’ healthy eating habits – things like composting food scraps for the school garden which grows stuff that goes into school lunches, things like dissecting and eating a peach in science class just so kids have the opportunity to realize, “Hey, I like peaches!”, things like teaching kids what “organic”, “processed’, “local”, “fresh” mean. Hmmm – are we doing this at home?
  • Another interesting idea is the new push for “recess before lunch” in schools. I never thought of this, but it makes so much more sense. Let the kids move around and work up an appetite, then they will be more focused on eating. Don’t make them sit still even more after sitting still all morning – this is just asking for behavior problems. Don’t make them rush to eat so they can still have a few minutes left to play – don’t make them choose between slow, healthy eating and table conversation or playtime! Now that I think of it, whenever my kids have been playing at the park or riding trikes, they always eat more dinner.
  • And, again, duh – don’t offer them the unhealthy choices! Let them choose between green salad and fruit salad, brown rice or wheat toast, not chocolate or plain milk, not chicken nuggets or green beans. This makes so much sense for us to do as parents at home, but we don’t want the schools undermining the hard work we are doing by re-framing what “acceptable” eating habits are in our society. Get involved and sign Jamie Oliver’s petition to fight for healthier school lunches for America’s kids (some recipes and other helpful tips here, as well) Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution

Inspired by the show I’d heard, I invited Ellie to toss the salad tonight – we made a pretty cute salad song to go along with it, she had fun making the two wooden giraffe spoons talk to each other, and enjoyed adding lots of colors (red and yellow bell peppers, white parmesan cheese, red tomatoes, green cucumbers). I was just fine with her snacking on it as we worked. Then, at dinner, I explained to MJ how our human ancestors millions of years ago ate mostly plants, things growing that they searched for and gathered (before stores and when meat was a treat), so that’s still what our bodies are made to eat. I also mentioned that they didn’t have olive oil or balsamic vinegar to make salad dressing, and I sure was thankful to live in a time that food tasted so good! He ate two bowls of salad, and skipped the processed lasagna. Even kids are capable of understanding the 3 basic tenets of Michael Pollan’s great books on healthy eating:

1. Eat Food (like stuff your great-grandmother would recognize as food, from the periphery of the store, not the brightly colored packaged stuff from the middle)

2. Mostly plants

3. Not too much

Add to that the concept that our bodies are made to move in search of that food like our ancient ancestors did, and you’ve got a healthy lifestyle! Simple in concept, but hard to change habits, I know. My worst one is snacking late at night in front of the TV. Still, my point is that kids can get this stuff if we talk to them about it, and at a young ages, they are fascinated by it! But just like everything we want to teach our children, it will only be learned if we model it, too.

Listen to the show with Amy Kalafa to hear why even if you think your kids are eating healthy because you are sending them with lunches, you should be concerned…

Connecting Ritual:

  • Don’t forget to drop a love note, and “I’m thinking of you”, “I’m proud of you“, or “Looking forward to ________ with you later”  , or “Can’t wait to read what happens to Ramona later with you during story-time” note in the lunch box every now and then to help stay connected during the day. I often just use a post-it.
  • Or just for fun, a message that relates to the food: “I love you more than applesauce!”
  • Or maybe a family blessing or written prayer.
  • Maybe a funny cartoon or silly poem to share a laugh.
  • Maybe a family snapshot with “hello” messages written from the family members.
  • And remember to think fondly of your child when you sit down to your lunch (at the desk, in front of the TV, or in the drive-thru)…close your eyes, take a deep breath, and wish them well or say a prayer for them. Then, later in the day, you can tell them that you did. (They might even start doing this for you! Wouldn’t that be nice?)

And please let me know….What are your favorite healthy foods to pack in school lunches?

Want more ideas on good foods for good fingers? See my post


  1. My friend Beth and her kids love “Planet Boxes” –

    • Lori Murphy says:

      This is a great post. Thank you for the reminders. We do recess before lunch at our school and it works out great. Also, we are using bento boxes that we got at Pottery Barn Kids. They are working out pretty well :)

      • Lori, thanks so much for the suggestion. I have procrastinated on this, and will probably need to go buy them somewhere this weekend before Monday, so I might be visiting Pottery Barn. What age are the kids at your school?