I was thinking the other day about the first ever lunch box I packed for my son.
Honestly I was a little nervous in the lead up to the first day of the little man’s school life. Just before he started school he went through a super shy / social freak out phase. Despite it eventually subsiding say after that first swim lesson of term or hour of a party, I wondered whether the first day of school would be really hard. I was braced and ready. We’d talked about how every single child there was having their first day and they were all going to be feeling excited and nervous and sometimes shy and that was totally cool. You wonder whether these things are going to sink in, don’t you?
He was of course dressed when I got up at 6.20, completely ready for school – even his hat! I figured that was a good sign and it was. We walked down as a family. He got playing and building things, met the teacher and we had a cuddle and left. He was already ‘busy’. No tears or leg hugging from either of us and I found myself drinking a juice down the road quietly, thinking, how odd. It was as if it were so natural and normal yet all so new.
Speaking of ‘new’ I was actually a little stumped for a minute on the lunch box detail – like there was pressure to perform, doing what I do. It’s not hard though, it’s incredibly simple. My strategy for the lunch box situation to be simple and stress free, is to plan well and make time OTHER THAN THE EARLY MORNING OF SCHOOL to be lunch box ready. I was determined for our lunch box not to be a packaging festival and even for a passionate cook like me, there might be the odd day where a few packets will creep in – but as I always say, it’s not about what you do every now and then, it’s about what you do often. And this is what I do often:
- Bake 2 -3 treats a fortnight on rotation and freeze double batches to make light work for the busy weeks. My banana bread or spiced fig and ginger bread (maybe ditch ginger if child isn’t a fan) are great for this, as are the apricot bars from my Real Treats book. The mix freezes well raw in rounds which you can then cut discs and bake as biscuits or roll out into a rectangle for bars, cutting them while it’s still warm)
- Always have crudité veggies at hand – capsicum, carrot, cucumber, celery, cherry tomatoes and alternative to keep things different over a fortnight.
- Always cook too many meatballs, sausages, burger patties or drumsticks and use them for lunch boxes the next day- These nourishing meats with healthy fats and protein that burn slower are great at lunch time, resulting in more balanced blood sugar levels – one of the key things that affects concentration. Sausages especially, when I think of my little guy and how soon after a meal I get told “I’m HUNGRY”. Go for ethical, organic and pasture raised wherever you can.
- Always cook too much roast veg like sweet potato or pumpkin – So yummy the next day in chunks, plain.
- Make 2 small batches of various dips, or a simple paté like mine or smash a half avocado with sea salt and press parchment down onto its surface so it doesn’t brown before lunch.
- A simple whole piece of fruit. Apple, a handful of strawberries, half a banana.
- Cubed, unprocessed cheese or a few olives
- Some sort of savoury home made muffin or the odd wrap with the leftover meat and shredded carrot / lettuce
- On a pate day seed or buckwheat crackers to enjoy it with.
- Then random rotating luxuries to keep things in discovery mode, like the odd little jar of home made popcorn, or organic ham, or a hot pot in an insulated container or a seasonal fruit or leftover home made cupcake from the weekend, little jar of chia pudding, a smoothie or nourishing thickshake or pressed veggie juice, frozen that defrosts over the morning and is super cold and yummy…
- Why no sandwich? Look I’m not ‘strict’ anything, other than Real Food, so yes, a sandwich might appear every now and then on quality gluten free bread made in a local bakery. BUT it won’t be the norm for me for the simple fact that the energy is too quick burning, compared to healthy fats at lunch time. The starchy carbs with little fat, turn to sugar pretty quickly in our bodies and burn faster and for a little learning mind, that just seems illogical to make ‘the norm’. Fibre comes from plants. All plants. So let it come mostly from veggies and fruits that aren’t too sweet and they’ll get plenty of that ‘fibre’ that those ads keep banging on about whole grains for. If you are diabetic or insulin resistant, see your practitioner to advise you, this is not intended as medical advice 🙂
And that’s about it!
Then in terms of the lunch box itself… I seem to have ended up with two smallish ones, so in the end, it’s perfect for keeping recess and lunch separate. These are some of my favourites, all of which I’ve purchased with my own money and recommend because we have loved them for trips to the park, extended car trips, picnics and playdates over the past couple of years.
DITCH PLASTIC wherever possible. These are my shopping mottos – especially around food storage.
In opting for stainless steel, you avoid exposure to hormone disrupting pthalates, BPA, BPS, PVC, DIOXIN… the list goes on. Detox the lunch box with these ones forever more and check out Biome for loads of other options too. If you do so throguh these links, you’re also supporting my work with a small commission, as I’m a super proud affiliate for Biome – one of the strictest ‘natural’ stores out there in terms of what they stock.
Trio of stainless, PVC and pthalate free containers (we’ve had ours for 3 years and still going strong. Worth the money to not have the toxic stuff surround their food!)
Stacked compartment stainless lunch box with dip container
Insulated Stainless container for hot pots and stews
If you’re keen to learn more about safe low tox lunch box packaging, cooking utensils, toys, clothing, home remedies for kids and more… you might like to take a look at the Low Tox Kids on-demand eCourse.
So here was our low tox lunch box.
The Apricot bars from my book Real Treats were a hit – always a crowd pleaser.
These cheesy zucchini muffins need one more tweak before sharing, texture wise
And the result? Not bad at all mum. Not bad at all. Phew!
Organic pasture raised pork sausage from the markets, fresh fruit, veggies and smashed avocado and the rest detailed above.
So what are your favourite lunch box foods for easy and nourishing options? What do your kids love?
Real Food. Happy Bodies.
I am trying to come up with ideas other than sandwiches, this week the kids have had homemade sushi, fruit, roasted sweet potatoes, other vegie sticks, home baked goodies such as chocolate muffins made on spelt flour, marinya cottage ‘s apple, carrot and oat slice. My kids do like bread but I try to think of other foods that contains more nutrients.
Divine and yes – it’s fine that they like bread if there are no digestive issues. It’s just not a logical every day all the time food for growing bodies, bang for nourishment buck so it sounds like you’re totally onto it! x
LOVE this post! Thanks heaps Alex – Biome site seems to have crashed!? All your lovely readers must be there at once! I am definitely going to buy when it comes back up XXXXX Phoodie
You’re so super welcome – It came to Wednesday and I thought “crap, I promised my phoodie mate” – Ask and you shall receive – Did the site work in the end so you could grap one? x
Hi Alexx! Thank you for an awesome post, I’m doing Kindy lunches for the first time :). I posted this comment over on Natural New Age Mum too, and I’d love to know your thoughts. In the lead up to starting Kindy, I’d been googling around about what to look for with stainless steel products i.e.. quality, grade etc. and read something about stainless steel that is manufactured in China being questionable to say the least (the article claims that China has a “proven track record of manufacturing steel products contaminated with everything from lead to cadmium, asbestos, Cobalt-60 and other radioactive wastes…” And apparently it’s way too expensive to manufacture elsewhere. I haven’t dug any deeper on this, it’s just one article I’ve come across. I’ve been keen on Planetbox and LunchBots so far, both of which are made in China…. Feels frustrating when sometimes there seems to be an ‘issue’ to come up against, every way you turn. Basically I just want the safest product in the land, but I’m probably just overthinking it I guess.
These doubts are over cheap thin stainlesses. 18/10 is high quality and anti rust and you’ve nothing to worry about 🙂 – I know the stainless you mean. For me the most obvious sign is the stuff that rusts when wet. Quality, pure stainless shouldn’t and having put these lunch boxes through the dishwasher a number of times, I feel confident that we’ve nothing to worry about.
Thanks so much for your reply Alexx, I really appreciate reading your thoughts on these matters. It can be very overwhelming sometimes, all the reading, learning, reading and learning some more, but I know it’s well and truly worth it 🙂
Alexx I am loving this! I dreaded lunch boxes all last year during our little man’s first year at school. I really needed this article from you and start the year fresh with new and more importantly healthy ideas. Thank you!
SO glad it helped x
I’m not doing any lunches (yet) but my mum always packed us a lunch growing up and tried to do her best to make them interesting. We had plastic lunch boxes (sorry Alex – it was the 80’s/90/s!), but they were compartmentalized for a sandwich ( my favourite was leftover cold sausage and tomato sauce!), a cold juice drink (frozen to start with so the whole box would stay fresh in the warmer weather), a homemade snack (banana bread, lamington), occasionally a packet of chips, and a piece of fruit. So, maybe not as balanced as we try to think today, but it was way better than anything the canteen had on offer!! 🙂
Hi Alexx, did you need any cooling to keep things fresh through the day?
Yes! I use a 4MyEarth insulated bag x
I love your blog. You’ve really helped me make huge but not overwhelming changes to live a healthier life. I provide my son with breakfast, two snacks and a lunch every day as he’s only two and in daycare. I have to follow the USDA food program and most of what I send him for lunch should be reheated. In order to make meal prep easier on my provider I use plastic bento boxes and I’m sure she microwaves the food in the boxes. I’m not keen on the microwave use either but it’s not my home so I don’t feel I can say much here. What is your solution for foods that should be warmed up? Do you just not send him with foods that need to be reheated? I doubt a school would throw his aluminum boxes into an oven for a few minutes and they can’t be microwaved…..I would love to switch to these when he’s older or even now but I feel like it’s more of an inconvenience for her and she’s doing me a favor by allowing me to bring his food (she serves all of the stuff you’re against on here). Just curious on your thoughts/actions regarding warm food at lunch.
I know LIFE FACTORY brand is available in the US and they do a silicon protected glass – could that be an option?
Here, I have a little hot / insulated pot that keeps the food hot until lunch time, so there’s no need to reheat. Heating up in plastic is a definite one to steer away from, so if plastic was the only option, then I’d do cold things like wraps full of good ingredients, fruit, veggie sticks, dips, a cookie / slice type treat or bliss ball and voila: A healthy lunch box is born <3
I LOVE the after shot!!!!!!!
I have such anxiety about opening the lunch box after school!!
hehe – I do have an anticipation moment too on the ‘after’ – Most days he’s a clean sweep thank goodness. x
I like the look of your lunch boxes but can only see the round ones….and with 3 lunch boxes, do you place them all in something to keep them together? Some days I will use leftoers and then other days, half a sandwich with something extra like cheese or hummus and vegie sticks so it’s good to have a few smaller boxes when you don’t always need a big one. and should I be using an ice brick as well with the stainless steel? Thanks!
Yes I’m a fan of the ice pack with except of the 3 really cool winter months where it’s not needed. I also carry a few different individual pots, bento, hot pot. BIOME has an enormous stainless range here http://bit.ly/lunchboxesBIOME and some nifty ‘keep it all together’ pouches too although I often put recess in front pocket and lunch in main bag sometimes x