A lunch from home is better for you than a school lunch, right? Not necessarily, says Angela Lemond, a dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Kids need a variety of foods to get adequate vitamins and minerals, she explains, and “a lot of times, when we fix our kids a lunch from home, it’s very similar day after day after day.” Plus, the go-tos often exclude vegetables and dairy. (We’re looking at you, juice boxes and PB&Js.)
For parents wanting to pack better, more varied lunches, one mom suggests starting with the lunchbox, not the food. Wendy Thorpe Copley packs her sons’ lunches in bento boxes, a Japanese style of food storage that includes containers and dividers for different types of foods. And she makes it look good, too, documenting her dinosaur-shaped sandwiches and star-shaped bell pepper slices on her blog, Wendolonia. “When you go to a restaurant, you expect your food to look nice,” Copley says. “People don’t think that kids feel the same way, but they absolutely do.” Banish the boring with the following hip lunch bags, boxes and totes — and get your kids to eat better in the process.
●“People look at bento boxes and they don’t think they hold that much food,” Wendy Thorpe Copley says, “but they actually hold a ton.” She points to the LunchBots Duo as an example: “You look at it, and think, ‘That does not look like very much food,’ but it probably holds 2
● “If you want something leakproof, this is your lunchbox,” says Copley, author of “Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go,” of the Yumbox, which comes with four or six compartments ($28, www.yumboxlunch.com). The tight seal means you can pack applesauce next to crackers, yogurt next to cookies. The tiniest compartment is perfect for veggie dip or a piece of candy or two.
● The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has declared August Kids Eat Right Month (www.kidseatright.org), just in time for parents to plan for the upcoming school year. Both Angela Lemond and Copley agree that a good place to start is with a stylish lunch bag. The vintage-style linen Red Scooter Lunch Box comes with a strap for wearing as a messenger bag ($31, www.soyoung.ca).
● Choose your lunchbox based on your child’s age, Copley says, because a preschooler won’t need as much food as a sixth-grader. The Spicy Relish Lunch Tote, with an interior pocket for utensils and a strap for carrying, is good for older kids with big appetites or grown-ups going to work ($24, www.builtny.com). Flexible insulating neoprene means the lunchbox can stretch and conform to the shape of the food inside.
● All the rage among the preschool set, Skip Hop’s Zoo Lunchies insulated lunch bags come in 21 animal and insect designs, such as hippo and ladybug ($15, www.skiphop.com). Once you’ve chosen your creature, find backpacks, tableware, utensils and water bottles to match.
● Lunch containers with separate compartments allow parents to better follow USDA recommendations (www.choosemyplate.gov) for what should be present in a healthful meal: a combination of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. The Stoh Insulated Lunch Tote has plenty of room for hard containers as well as two mesh pockets for smaller items ($22-$28, www.milkdot.com).
● Copley’s youngest son prefers PlanetBox’s Rover ($50, plus $12-$14 for carry bag, www.planetbox.com). It “carries a high price tag,” Copley says, “but it comes with a lunch bag and it’s built like a tank.” The gender-neutral metal surface (perfect for magnets) means it will adapt to his style as he ages.
● As your kids get older, have them help pack their own midday meal, Lemond says. The dietitian’s 8- and 11-year-olds know the drill: “a protein, a grain, fruit, veggies and a dairy.” L.L.Bean’s Flip-Top Lunch Box can hold all of that and more ($25, www.llbean.com).
● Kids have enough to carry to and from school, so Lands’ End designed its FeatherLight line to lighten their load. The FeatherLight Lunch Box attaches with a hook to a matching backpack and can keep food cold for five hours with an ice pack ($19, www.landsend.com).
● Never run out of plastic baggies again. The Food Kozy Wrap ($6, store.kidskonserve.com ) is reusable plastic (jelly or mustard won’t seep through) and comes in a set of two.
● Reusable lunchboxes help parents reduce waste, but so do cloth napkins, sandwich sacks and snack bags, such as the Bite Me Snack Sack from SnackTaxi, made of washable laminated fabric ($8, www.snacktaxi.com).
●Pack hot soup or chili with veggies in the Fauna 10 oz. Funtainer Food Jar by Thermos and DwellStudio ($20, www.dwellstudio.com). Heat to 200 degrees before packing so they will be above the temperature danger zone of 140 degrees by lunchtime.
Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be found at www.lindseymroberts.com.
Gallery See more photos of lunchboxes for kids of all ages.
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