What Not to Pack In Your Child's Lunchbox

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Don't give in to the temptation to send the kids off with one of those pre-fab, ready-made lunches. They may be convenient, but they short change your child on nutrition and cost a bundle, to boot.

We want them to do their best in school so we insist they eat breakfast, even if it’s on the run. We balance their dinners and offer them plenty of healthy choices for after school snacks. So why are we risking our children’s health by packing unhealthy midday fare? Don’t send them off for the day with a lunch packed with love, until you’ve protected their health.

Don’t Pack…
Foodbourne Illness
  • The potential to harm your children unknowingly is greater than you think.

  • Mayonaise spoils quickly, so don’t use it when preparing lunch. Forego tuna, chicken and egg salads.

  • Bacteria can thrive in boxes that aren't kept cool.Use ice packs and frozen drink containers to keep your insulated box or bag cool.

  • Precut/prewashed fruits and veggies are convenient, but not as clean as they could be. Always rinse before packing.
Hi-Calorie, Lo-Nutrient Foods
  • Juice Boxes. Many juices are not 100% fruit juice. They're fruit flavored drinks loaded with corn syrup. They have little nutritional value and load your child up with sugar. Read the labels. Look for 100% juice.
  • Consider pouring her favorite juice into a portable cup and mix with water. Better yet, just send the water.

  • Chips. They're loaded with saturated fats and sodium (salt). Replace chips with pretzels or baked veggie chips.

  • Snack cakes. Too many calories, too much sugar. Not good for the waistline or the attention span. Lowfat muffins are great alternatives, and can be a great source of fiber.

  • Preboxed lunches that include everything from entrée, to drink, to treat.

    They may be quick, but they’re not as healthy as you child deserves.


Unbalanced Meals.

Just like the other meals your child eats, lunch should be balanced. Fruits and veggies, protein from lean meat, grains and dairy should all be part of lunch. So pack those raisins, orange slices, yogurt containers, cheese cubes, whole grain breads, lean lunch meats, vegetables and dip. Just be sure to pack them properly.

How you pack your child’s lunch is just as important as what you pack.
  • Consider the condition of your child’s lunch box. Is it insulated? It should be.

  • Do you wash it out with warm, soapy water daily? With bleach diluted in water weekly?

  • Does it show signs of wear and tear? Rips and holes can compromise your child’s food.

  • Have cooked foods been properly cooled in the fridge before being packed?

  • Warm food heats cool foods. Ice packs are a must, everyday.

  • Are foods put into squish-proof, leak-proof containers?
Send your little ones off with lunches that will nourish their bodies and enable them to fully engage in the process of nourishing their minds. And, before you close up that carefully packed lunch, slip in a note telling your sweetie how sweet he really is.