How to Pack a sustainable lunch box- There are many things to consider when packing your child’s lunch for preschool and school. Firstly, you want to pack something they will eat happily. Then, you also want to make sure that it’s nutritious and healthy. Plus it’s always nice if it is presented in a way that is appealing for your child.
To add to this list there is also another very important issue. That is the importance of reducing plastic wrapping and packaging. Unfortunately over the many years of working at a preschool, I have seen some lunchboxes containing more plastic packaging than actual food!
Recently the Government Of Western Australia conducted some research with astonishing results. They found that a child’s lunch box containing ordinary food items, pre-packaged food and snacks creates approximately 3 Kg of waste per child every year. That is an incredible amount of waste that is going to landfill!!
However, there are many practical eco-friendly things we can do to reduce waste. And we need to remember that small changes can mean a big difference when it comes to looking after our precious earth.
So What Can We Do?
The Lunch Box
Lunch boxes are usually made from plastics. For the sake of the environment consider using sustainable products instead. There has been a huge explosion in the variety of lunch boxes available on the market. These days it’s quite easy to find lunch boxes made from stainless steel or bamboo. Both of these materials are a much better and healthier alternative to plastic.
Many children come to preschool with large, fancy, and super expensive bento boxes. While these can be a good idea, children don’t need to have these overwhelmingly big bento boxes. They really aren’t necessary and parents shouldn’t feel the need to fork out so much money for these.
It seems that parents try and fill every one of the compartments with a different type of food. In our experience at preschool what ends up happening is this. The children feel so overwhelmed by the quantity and variety that it actually ends up turning them off their lunch and they don’t want to eat. We’ve had children in tears sitting there in front of these huge bento boxes.
Please consider the size when you are purchasing your child’s box. Bento boxes can be easily and affordably found in department stores and supermarkets like Kmart, Big W, and Aldi
Alternatives to Bento Boxes
Of course, it’s not necessary to have a Bento box at all. You can easily use any lunch box and divide the box up yourself. I have seen this done very effectively by using things like silicone patty pan cases.
In order to reduce food waste, it’s also a really good idea to separate your child’s lunch from their morning tea or recess. So instead of having everything in one huge overwhelmingly scary lunch box, provide two smaller ones. This makes it so much easier for your child to manage and know what to eat.
You can also use beeswax wraps and silicon or fabric snack bags. These are not only environmentally friendly but they are really a whole lot easier for little fingers to unwrap than the sticky plastic wrap. They don’t call it cling wrap for nothing!!
Thermoses are also great to use and you can go to town with the delicious things you can give your child in a thermos. Think about those yummy leftovers that they can have for lunch the next day.
Remember to choose lunchboxes that can fit into an insulated lunch bag. By adding an icepack you will also ensure that your child’s food is maintained at a safe temperature.
How To Save Money And Reduce Waste With The Foods You Purchase For Lunches
When we go to the supermarket we are constantly bombarded with a huge variety of pre-packaged snacks. These snacks are usually covered in unnecessary plastic packaging that will ultimately end up in landfills.
Have you taken the time to actually consider the cost of these convenient pre-packaged foods? Trust me, if you do you will be horrified. Take for example the cost of cheddar cheese. A 250-gram block of cheddar cheese costs around $4.00- that’s $1.50 per 100 grams. A pre-packaged cheese and crackers pack costs $1.60 that’s $3.20 per 100 grams. Interestingly, I have noticed that many children don’t even like the cheese in these pre-packaged snack packs. They will happily eat the crackers and yes you guessed it. THEY THROW THE CHEESE OUT!
An individual yoghurt pouch costs $1.20 per 100 grams or a 900-gram tub costs 64 cents per 100 grams. Now if you are buying the occasional yoghurt that may not seem very significant. But if you are purchasing a pouch every single day per child for school lunches, this ends up costing you a significant amount over the course of the whole year. Now, this is just the cost to your pocket but think about the environmental cost when you add up all those millions of yoghurt pouches and lids being thrown out every day.
I buy my snack foods in bulk sizes and package them myself into eco-friendly lunch boxes and containers. I save a lot of money doing it this way and I am also doing my part in reducing waste to help the environment.
What To Pack
It is incredibly important for children to develop healthy eating habits from a young age. There are so many negative health consequences from eating foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt, and additives.
Children also need good healthy natural food that will fuel their bodies ensuring that they are ready to focus and learn.
While children are at school or preschool, they are spending long periods of time away from home. It is so important that they are consuming nutritional foods. Foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, protein (meat or alternative), and dairy (or alternative). You can find some great recommendations at Healthy eating for children poster (eatforhealth.gov.au).
Examples of morning tea or recess could include
- a piece of fruit or yoghurt
- Vegetable sticks with hummus, cheese, and crackers
- Corn cob
- Air-popped popcorn
Examples of lunch could include
- Sandwich with ham, cheese, and salad
- Wrap with egg and salad
- Bento box with a small selection of your child’s favorite vegetables, salads, fruit, crackers, and ham
An Important Thing To Remember
Just because a food item is found in the healthy aisle of a supermarket, it does not necessarily mean that they do not contain sugar, salt, fats, or additives.
Pack The Rainbow
Remember to pack the rainbow. This means packing a variety of natural foods of different colours. We get different health benefits from eating different coloured natural foods. Larry’s Eat a Rainbow Sharing Book (sahealth.sa.gov.au)
Encouraging Fussy Eaters
Children can be fussy when it comes to food. I have found that children are much more likely to eat foods when they have been included in their preparation. You can do this by growing your own fruit and vegetables, cooking with your child, or even just simply including them when you prepare their lunch boxes. You can find more information about fussy eating here Fussy eaters in the family? Tips to help. Raising Children Network
One Last Very Important Thing
I would like to thank my wonderful friend and amazing colleague Dorianne Dalley for helping me write today’s post. Dorianne did all the research and hard work. She really is my wonder twin!!