Pack a Healthy Lunchbox That’s Waste-Free Too!

waste-great lunchbox
Have you ever been in a school cafeteria during lunchtime?  I have and some of what I have seen really bothers and worries me.  The food available to the kids isn’t the greatest(at least not what I would want to feed my children).  Some of the choices simply shouldn’t be there(such as fried foods or foods that are highly processed).  On the other hand, some of what I saw in the lunchboxes of my son’s friends wasn’t much better.
Here is a disturbing result that came home from the school nurse recently.  She had completed the 7th Grade Physical Assessment(which included height, weight, vision, and hearing).  This is required by our state and they recently added the requirement of BMI(body mass index) measurements as a way to identify possible weight issues for children.  Neither of my boys are 7th graders, but the results troubled me.  The current findings showed that 52%(yes, that’s more than half) of the students were either overweight or obese.  The obvious concern is for the future of these particular students and the possible health issues they may face.  The school can only be held “accountable” to a certain extent.  Although, I do feel ALL middle school students should have physical eduation class every single day, they all do not.  They have done a decent job with their vending machines, which have NO soda available to the kids and DO include items that I would be okay with my kids eating.  That doesn’t mean when I ate lunch with my son and his friends that it didn’t bother me to see a few of them going to one of the vending machines(which sits in the cafeteria and only about 5 feet from the table they all sit at)not just once, but several times, during the lunch period.  Needless to say, learning healthy habits starts and ends at home.  I pack a lunch for my 6th grader and my 8th grader every day.  I know what they bring for lunch, which means I know what they are putting in their bodies.  Here are some of my ideas for packing a healthy lunch for your kids and as an added bonus, as close to waste-free as possible.
One of my boys is a bit of a routine kind of a guy(he has autism and sometimes they just like things as close to the same as possible).  I certainly don’t complain about this because it makes my lunch packing for him pretty easy!  My younger son enjoys some of the same things each day, but every now and then we change it up and add some variety.
~First and foremost, both of my kids have lunch bags(the reusable kind) that we will use until they wear out or start to fall apart!  Remember, people, I AM @frugalgirl on Twitter!
~The other must-have for a waste-free and healthy lunchbox(or bag) is a reusable water bottle.  A great stainless steel or BPA-free plastic one is great!
Some of my favorites to include in their lunchbags include the following:
~always some sort of fruit(usually go with something as seasonal as possible), which right now is orange or clementine slices
~my younger son is currently loving his riceworks Gourmet Brown Rice Crisps(can you believe HE asked me to buy these for him?).  I am such a proud mama! Oh, and I just realized when I added the link for you, they have a $1.00 off coupon so I highly recommend you go print it and give them a try.  Also, his favorite flavor is the Sweet Chili in case you aren’t sure which one to try first!
~A favorite staple for my older guy is Smart Puffs made by Pirate Brands.  Have you heard of Pirate Brands?  They are so yummy and healthy and I love how they make it fun with some of their product names.  Sorry, I didn’t see a coupon at their site, but there may be one somewhere out there!
~I like to have something homemade in their bags, too.  The big reason is because I know what goes into making them and it is WAY less expensive than buying something store-bought and packaged(remember the whole waste-free goal?), not to mention the “love” factor of homemade goodies.  I have made things like oatmeal cookies loaded with raisins, walnuts, and a few dark chocolate chips,  apple cake, and even brownies.  Homemade baked goods don’t always have to equal unhealthy.  Some of the ways to accomplish more healthy homemade treats is to use whole wheat flour(somtimes I use half whole wheat and half unbleached all purpose flour), instead of sugar I use maple syrup or honey, and in place of oil you can use apple sauce.  Those are a few ways to add a little health “factor” to a baked item, without sacrificing yummy flavor!
~A few different sandwiches I have made include peanut butter(always organic) and preserves, egg salad, and occasionally tuna(I choose the lowest mercury content, sustainable caught, and packed in a can that is free of BPA).  Sandwiches are always made on homemade or bakery(local) bought whole grain bread.
~A few other great additions for a healthy lunchbox include organic yogurt(don’t forget to provide a spoon), chunks of organic cheese, freshly popped popcorn, along with other fruits such as apples or bananas and veggies like fresh carrots, celery, or broccoli!
I consider these a work in progress….they can always be tweaked and improved.  Some are great the way they are, but some could be better.  I will also say this…although much of what I feed my children is organic, not ALL of what I put into their lunches is organic.  I prefer healthy and with no “crappy stuff”(like with the riceworks and Smart Puffs) and often times will choose a fruit or veggie that aren’t necessarily organic as long as they are local.  We all do the best we can, but a healthy lunch can be accomplished without spending more money!
What are some of your favorite ideas for a healthy lunchbox?  Or, do you have an item that you want to replace for a healthier option and need ideas?  I would love all of your feedback!


  1. My son likes to occasionally replace the PBJ with a PB and apple taco- whole wheat tortilla spread with organic peanut butter, chopped apple and a sprinkle of granola! My daughter likes hummus and cut-up veggies, we also make homemade granola bars. It's a lot cheaper, plus I can keep out some sugar and sneak in more good stuff like wheat bran and flaxseeds!

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your ideas, Ruby! The PB and apple taco sounds yummy….I think I have a child that would love that with bananas! 🙂

  3. I also pack my kid's lunches about 98% of the time. Occasionally I let them buy lunch but that's a rare treat. Another great place to get ideas for healthy lunch boxes is do a google search of bento box lunches – sometimes there are very cool and healthy ideas that I never would have thought to put in a lunch.

  4. Thanks Krista! I think I follow them on Twitter…will have to check it out more!

  5. Thanks Krista! I think I follow them on Twitter…will have to check it out more!

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