Stop for a moment and consider the amount of waste your child throws away at school each day. Multiply that by a year and you realize the huge mountain of empty juice boxes, string cheese wrappers and animal cracker boxes that is accumulating in the landfills. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, each child generates around 67 pounds of garbage a year.
Also, take a look at some of the ingredients listed on the sides of those packages, showing the amount of sugar, chemicals, preservatives and other mystery additives kids are eating on a daily basis. Bad diet and convenience go together. It’s not an accident that obesity rates in the US have skyrocketed in the last 30 years among children; we’ve traded convenience and flavor for nutrition.
However, not all hope is lost. There is a way to kill two birds with one stone: You can recalibrate the school lunch with whole foods that don’t require nearly as much packaging and preservatives. Here are a few suggestions for reducing waste while serving meals that kids enjoy eating.
Replace the sugary drinks with water
Use a BPA-free reusable bottle for water instead of a sugary drink! It might take some kids a minute to revert to water if they are accustomed to juice or pop, but all the pediatricians say that juice and soda are the most insidious forms of sugar in the young American diet. Kids’ bodies are roughly 70 percent water, so it makes sense that water should be the lion’s share of their liquid intake. Keep in mind that bottled water is not cleaner or better-regulated than most municipal water. Don’t spend the extra money for extra plastic.
Sandwiches are great… but sometimes they can become boring for kids. Mix it up by using tortillas, crackers, pita pocket, mini pancakes and even rolled up deli meat! Look how easy this ham and cheese rollup idea is, you could also try a turkey and pesto rollup or any other combo that your kid might like!
Fruit instead of fruit products
If grapes, blueberries and strawberries are unavailable, cut up oranges, pears and apples will also go over well at school. For apples and pears, squeeze a little lemon on them before you seal them up so they don’t go brown.
Dried veggie chips, rice crackers, and nori
These items make great savory snacks, and you can often buy them in the bulk bin at the supermarket. Use seal-up plastic containers with snaps that little hands can get open easily.
Whole grain bread, muffins or banana bread
Whole grain bread products are tasty and healthy, mixing some wholegrain breads or muffins in your kids’ everyday diet will always be a good thing. If, like many households, you end up having over ripe bananas a few days after a trip to the grocery store – fret not! You can use them to make your kids a delicious whole wheat banana bread lunch box snack… and you get to nibble on it throughout your day as well!
Little nutritional changes have a big effect on child development; they need the fundamental building blocks every day in order grow, develop cognition and maintain their mental health. But it doesn’t have to be boring!
By the same token, adding in these healthier options will also lighten your family’s footprint on the planet.