Photo: Girl Waiting Outside a School

by Tracy Rohland

As summer vacation winds to an end, it’s time to welcome the school year with exciting and nutritious lunches for the kids. Packing a lunch for your child allows you to have some control over what he or she is eating at school and keeps your child from having to buy school lunches. Typical school-bought lunches are meat-based and loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as refined sugars, flours, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. By making intelligent shopping decisions and setting aside time for preparing lunches, you can help your child to stay healthy and give him the energy and focus he needs to succeed in school. Down to Earth is a great place to start looking for tasty and healthy lunch box foods. Following are some simple lunch ideas as well as a few suggestions of products to check out:

  • A sandwich is a great staple of any lunch. This chart lists some alternative ingredients that can make the typical sandwich more nutritious.
    Instead of... Use...
    White bread Sprouted grain or whole wheat bread
    Lunch meat Vegetarian lunch meat (not only is it free of animal products and high in protein, it is also lower in fat than typical lunch meat and does not contain preservatives and fillers)
    Processed cheese slice Natural cheese slice or cream cheese
    A leaf of iceberg lettuce Many leaves of a variety of lettuces (especially the dark greens), plus sprouts and tomatoes
    Mayonnaise Vegenaise (lower in fat, zero cholesterol)
    Salt Salt-free seasoning and nutritional yeast (a great vegetarian source of B-vitamins)
    • Other options include:
      • Avocado sandwich
      • Nut butter (non-hydrogenated) & Jelly (naturally sweetened with fruit only)
      • Tofu Pattie (pan-fried and seasoned) sandwich
      • Veggie burger
      • Veggie dog
  • For a main course beyond the sandwich realm, try getting creative with a veggie-hummus wrap. Rebecca from Stanford Wellsphere suggests this recipe: Smear hummus on a small wheat tortilla and add shredded lettuce, cucumber sticks, and any other veggies your kid likes and roll it up. Serve one or two, depending on your kid’s appetite.
  • Always include a fruit and make it easy to eat. Wash all fruit, pre-cut or peel oranges, and slice apples. If you drizzle lemon juice over the apple slices it will keep them from turning brown. Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce comes in a handy single-serving container. Dried fruit is handy too; Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leather, available in a variety of real-fruit flavors.
  • Include as many vegetables as possible. Carrot sticks (try Organic Bunny-Luv Baby Carrots) and celery are always good options, but don’t be afraid to try broccoli, snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, or green peas. If your child is resistant to veggies, including a sauce or dip will sometimes do the trick. Nut butters, eggless ranch or cream cheese are good ideas.
  • Yogurt is a handy lunch addition, but make sure it is all-natural; many mainstream varieties of yogurt are filled with refined sugar, gelatin, and artificial colors and flavors. Down to Earth carries Stonyfield, Brown Cow, and Cascade Fresh Yogurt in 6 oz containers.
  • As an alternative to greasy chips, look for baked varieties, whole grain varieties, soy crisps or rice cakes. Try Lundberg Rice Cakes, Hain Mini Munchies Mini Rice Snacks or Sensible Foods Dried Crunch Snacks.
  • Mainstream granola bars usually include ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Trade them in for healthier varieties such as EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Bars, Barbara’s Crunch Organic Granola Bars, and Cascadian Farms Granola Bars.
  • Make your own one-of-a-kind snack mix using ingredients from our bulk bins. It’s economical and you can let your kids help create the mix!
  • Pack organic foods including milk and juice as much as possible. Shop DTE for Horizon Organic Reduced Fat Milk and Organic Valley 1% Milk in individual septic containers. DTE also carries lunch-size packs of Soy and Rice Dream drinks.
  • If you pack a juice box, make sure it is 100% juice. We like Hansen’s Natural Juice Squeeze, Santa Cruz juice boxes, or better yet, coconut water! Of course, plain water should always be included.
  • For a healthier dessert, try some all-natural cookies like New Morning Graham-Wiches or Barbara’s Snackimals.

The habits your child develops now will stick with him for the rest of his life. Consistently packing a well-rounded, healthy lunch for your children (or yourself or your spouse) is a big step toward influencing your family’s health in a positive way. To make it easier for you to shop, we have compiled a list items to help you when shopping for your lunch box additions (note this is not a comprehensive list, but some sample suggestions):

Snacks & Cookies

  • Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leather
  • Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
  • Barbara’s Snackimals
  • New Morning Graham-Wiches
  • Lundberg Rice Cakes
  • Hain Mini Munchies Mini Rice Snacks
  • Sensible Foods Dried Crunch Snacks
  • Kashi TLC Crackers

Apple Sauce

  • Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce

Milk, Soy, & Rice Milk

  • Rice & Soy Dream
  • Horizon Organic Reduced Fat Milk
  • Organic Valley 1% milk

Juice

  • Hansen’s Natural Juice Squeeze

String Cheese

  • Organic Valley Stringles

Yogurt

  • Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt
  • Brown Cow Yogurt
  • Cascade Fresh Yogurt

Granola Bars

  • EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Bars
  • Barbara’s Crunch Organic Granola Bars
  • Cascadian Farms Granola Bars

Cereal

  • Cascade Farms Purely O’s
  • Barbara’s Wild Puffs

Produce

  • Organic Bunny-Luv Baby Carrots
  • Organic Fuji apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, plums, etc.

Bulk

  • Dried fruits, nuts, granola, and trail mix