Back-to-School Cool

By: Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD

It’s back-to-school time and that means one thing – the proverbial brown bag lunch. But lunch is no longer relegated to those paper bags. In fact, lunchbox swag has gotten really sophisticated. While we love school lunch around here, we know that sometimes a lunch from home is just what you want. To secure your seat at the table with the cool kids be sure to include these in your to-go lunch plans.

Carry In Style

The Solvetta FlatBox™ Lunch Box has zippers in four corners that folds flat to create a placemat when unzipped. This placemat creates a barrier for an eating surface safe from germs, grass (when picnicking) and may even help avoid potential allergens on surfaces. Compact when zipped, the bag has an easy carry handle and is made from insulating material, which is also machine washable.

For keeping foods cold, one great option is the PackIt™ freezable lunch bag. The whole thing goes into the freezer until you’re ready to use it. Then it keeps food cold for hours until you’re ready for lunch. And it comes in a variety of sizes and shapes to meet any need. This is my top pick for food safety (of course, a PB&J is the perfect shelf-stable sandwich).

Contain It All

Bento-style boxes are all the rage. The bento box is a traditional Japanese container used to serve small portions of a variety of foods for the mid-day meal. Several companies make this style box in materials from plastics to stainless steel. Sectioned to prevent foods from touching and to help with portion control. Especially popular for younger kids, these boxes also seem to encourage offering a variety of foods. PlanetBox™ Bento stainless steel containers have been hot for a while. They have expanded to offer a variety of accessories, including “pods” for further dividing the larger sections. One note, these stainless boxes are not microwavable, but they can go in the dishwasher. Bentgo™ has offerings made out of BPA-free plastic and glass, as well as a Kids line specifically sized with younger children in mind. For tips on filling that bento-style box with good nutrition and flavor, check out Ancient Bento Meets Modern MyPlate.

If you prefer stackable containers, Bentgo™ also offers that style. Zojirushi™ also sells stackable containers that fit into a thermos-type carrier and keeps the foods warm or cold. Their Classic, Ms. And Mr. Bento lines offer a variety of sizes, colors, and styles. These cup containers are perfect for taking along leftover Peanut Butter Noodles or Curried Pumpkin Peanut Soup.

The perfect carrier for your PB&J might be the Sandwich Keeper by Tupperware™. They come in a variety of colors and lock tightly to seal in the sandwich. For little ones, send ½ a sandwich and fill the rest of the space with sliced apple or chips. Reusable sandwich wrappers are a great eco-friendly option. Bee’s Wrap™ is made of cotton fabric that has been impregnated with bee’s wax, jojoba oil, and tree resin to make it water proof. Simply wash clean with cool water and dish soap and allow to dry. It lasts about a year.

Silicone tube containers, like these DIY Pop Molds, are often marketed for frozen treats, but are also great for holding yogurt, trail mix, and peanuts. They are dishwasher safe and can be used over and over.

Don’t forget a stylish water bottle! Also available in a variety of materials, including plastic, metal and glass, water bottles should be easy to carry and store. Contigo™ offers a great line of water bottles in sizes for adults and kids.

A Little Something Extra

Kids love to find surprises in their lunch box and so do grown-ups! If you’re packing lunch, include some bit of fun and extra love each day. Here are a few ideas:

  • Q4Kidz™ is a non-profit that allows subscribers to sign up to get a weekly question texted to spark creative conversation. For instance, “If you had to make the weirdest pizza ever, what toppings would you put on it?” or “If you owned a store, what would you sell? Who would work there with you?”
  • Create Kids Club™ sells little cards perfect for tucking into the lunchbox each day. Each one includes a fun facts, a joke, or a positive affirmation. “Why do fungi have to pay double bus fares? Because they take up too mushroom” will make your children giggle.
  • And of course, an encouraging hand-written love note from mom or dad is always meaningful!

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