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With the return of back to school, I can almost hear the collective groan of moms across the world dreading the thought of making lunch for their kids, day in and day out. Combine that with the challenge of making a healthy, nourishing lunch and you might as well throw in the towel now, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be so hard. With just the tiniest bit of planning, you can have a well-stocked fridge and pantry full of items and ingredients that you can feel good about sending with your child to school. Let’s get to it!

Lunchables are such a popular lunch item in the school cafeteria. And I get it—they’re easy and convenient, and at first glance, they seem like a pretty balanced meal.

BUT….

They also have meat containing sodium phosphate.

Sodium phosphate is found in processed meats and other packaged foods like cereal, cakes, fast food, processed cheese, boxed mashed potatoes, and soda (and more). The FDA regards it safe in small amounts, however, so many people eat these foods on a daily basis. Large-scale epidemiological studies have shown high levels of phosphates in the body are linked to heart disease, decreased bone density, premature aging, and kidney issues.

Other ingredients found in Lunchables:

  • Glyphosate-sprayed wheat
  • Artificial flavors
  • Sodium Diacetate (a type of preservative)
  • Possible hormone-filled dairy
  • Sodium nitrites

Try This Instead:

A DIY Lunchable! Use crackers made with organic or sprouted grains. These aren’t sprayed with glyphosate, and sprouted wheat increases the availability of nutrients like folate, iron, vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium. Use cheese without added hormones and uncured meat without added sodium phosphate or nitrates. Combining a quality carb, fat, and protein will set your child up for the best success throughout the school day.

health school lunch ideas for toddlers

Need even more easy lunch ideas? Try these:

  • Crackers and tuna
  • Crackers and hummus
  • Crackers, cheese, and meat (homemade Lunchable)
  • Cubed cheese and meat on a toothpick
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Silver dollar pancakes with strawberries
  • Oatmeal with bananas
  • Yogurt with granola and hemp seed
  • Quesadilla triangles 
  • Bean and cheese burrito
  • Turkey and veggie wrap
  • Tortilla with nut butter and bananas
  • “Ants on a log” with nut or seed butter
  • Protein balls
  • Sliced up grassfed hotdog and ketchup to dip
  • Pasta—noodles, sauce, veggies
  • Mini pizzas—let your kids choose the toppings
  • Ravioli
  • Soups/chili
  • Black beans, corn, and avocado with chips for dipping

I try to swap other things besides food too. So many of the things classrooms require as part of their school supply lists contain unnecessary toxic chemicals. Do not feel pressured to buy these items when you can easily send in a better choice product. As a former math teacher, I can assure you that your child’s teacher will be grateful for any supplies you send in! You never know, you might teach them a new thing or two about better choices they can make in their own lives and their classrooms!

For instance, did you know not all cleaning wipes are created equal? Some are disinfectants, and some are simply surface cleaners. An all-purpose cleaning spray or multipurpose wipes are used to clean dirt, grime and spills. These are great for day-to-day, routine cleaning like wiping glue, crumbs, paint, crayons, etc. off desks and tables. They remove germs by cleaning an area. Cleaning surfaces regularly will remove germs and prevent them from growing or spreading. For everyday use in the classroom, cleaning wipes do a great job.

Disinfectant products should be used when someone is suffering from a contagious illness like the flu or when surfaces come into contact with blood, bodily fluids, or raw meat. To truly disinfect, the product needs to be used correctly, according to the instructions on the label, which typically requires the surface to stay wet for a full 4 to 10 minutes. Many disinfectants kill germs by using antimicrobial pesticides such as quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as “quats.” These chemicals can trigger allergies, asthma, and other health concerns.

I hope everyone has a safe and smooth return to school, whatever that may look like for you! Just remember, any and all positive changes you are making ARE making a difference! I’m here to help you at whatever stage you may be in your health journey. And while our kids may be starting school again, it’s never too late for us to continue our education about living a healthier, cleaner life!

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