9 Ways to Pack a Healthy, Sustainable School Lunch

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cool lunch box drawingThroughout my Elementary School, Middle School, and High School days, I rarely forgot to pack a lunch. Sure, my school’s cafeteria always provided options, but I’ve realized over time that my mother was quite revolutionary when it came to encouraging her children to make healthy choices.

While I have since traded my time swinging on the monkey bars before lunch to diligently working at the office, I still cook and bring my own food everyday, but not just because I miss my mom (and yes, I do miss her quite a lot), but because it is the most sustainable option. Here are some ideas for packing a sustainable school lunch for your back-to-schoolers.

4 Good Reasons to Pack a Healthy, Sustainable School Lunch

1. Packing a Lunch is Green

By eating already prepared foods and using reusable containers as often as possible, you are decreasing the amount of waste. Every year, millions of tons of plastic is used in packaging snacks and foods. Why not be part of that solution to the problem? While some snacks do conveniently come in to-go packs, do what you can within your means.

money tree

2. Packing a Lunch is Cheaper

Now instead of paying your child’s school to provide them with a hot lunch, you are cutting down the food bill by using what you have at home. Saving money will allow you to put those funds into other aspects of you life, like taking a vacation.

3. Packing a Lunch is Empowering

By going grocery shopping and planning lunches every week, it promotes the power of knowing what your child is eating. No more wondering what’s in that mystery meat! You will know you’ve provided the best possible meal.

happy family

4. Packing a Lunch is bonding

Making time to prepare food with your family promotes a sense of ownership and pride in the food that is eaten. It promotes a sense of love and community. It also encourages healthy eating habits at home which sets the tone for healthy eating throughout a child’s life.

 5 Tips for Tasty Snacks to Pack

1. Go for color! Pack foods that are as bright and cheery as possibly. Deep red apples, sweet green grapes, crunch celery or even some carrots.hummus

2. Pack foods that are grab-and-go! Think about packing foods that don’t necessarily require utensils. Maybe a healthy sandwich, foods that dip into hummus or guacamole well? What about some berries or rolled up cheeses and deli meats?

3. Include a treat! Don’t forget to splurge every once in awhile on a fun treat. My mom used to sneak in a cookie (or greek pastry) when I wasn’t looking. It was always a fun surprise to find a goodie.

4. Use fun shapes! Why not use those cookie cutters to create fun shapes with the food? Who doesn’t love a sandwich in the shape of a star or watermelon bits that look like hearts? watermelon

5. Look for what’s in season! In the late summer, there are plenty of peaches and blueberries, but in the fall, you can use sweet potatoes to make homemade fries.


Two great snack companies:

For Gluten-free treats, try Dr. Lucy’s! These treats are addicting and are the perfect little sweet goodie to sneak in any kid’s (or adult’s lunch). I honestly would have never guessed that they were gluten -free since the majority of my experience with gluten-free cookies ends in a pretty ‘crummy’ experience. These cookies reminded me of ones my grandmother used to make. I was pleasantly surprised.

gluten free cookies






For All Natural Snack, Check out Funley’s Delicious Wholly Granolly Clusters. They are light, tasty and a satisfyingly crunchy addition thing to pack in any kid’s lunch.

wholly granolly






Check out Bon Appetit for some yummy recipe ideas! Their pictures are mouth-watering.

Lunchbox drawing via Shutterstock
watermelon image via Shutterstock
MoneyTree image via Shutterstock
Lunch image via Shutterstock
Hummus Image via Shutterstock

About the author / 

Green Diva Gina

Green Diva Gina (aka Gina Gioldassis) is fondly referred to as the “Happy” Booker & Foodie-Phile Editor. She was producing and hosting the Eco-Radio show at Drew University when we met her, and we were thrilled that she chose to come work with us after she graduated. Having been brought up in New Hampshire in a Greek family, she is a natural food explorer and enthusiastic green diva. Previously, she worked as a production intern for both WNYC's Soundcheck and New Hampshire Public Radio's All Thing's Considered. While not in the studio, she spends her time traveling, eating, doing yoga and working full-time as a finance writer. At the moment, aspires to one day master her grandmother's homemade doughnut recipe.

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  1. saritacoren@gmail.com'
    Sarita Coren September 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm -  Reply

    PS We also discovered Dr. Lucy’s recently and really like it! The other great grab-and-go snack we are loving are the organic apple slices that are prepackaged. While not the most eco-friendly, at least my kids get a healthy snack that’s organic and that they like! Thanks for the great tips 🙂

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