5 Easy, Kid-Friendly Lunches for Back-to-School

Back-to-school is just around the corner - I can’t believe it! Although my daughter isn’t school age [yet], we pack her lunches because at least three days a week she’s eating at Grandma and Grandpa’s or Nouna’s (Greek for, “godmother”, and Eleni is lucky enough to have Lauren as her nouna!)

We strive for Eleni to have a variety of foods throughout the week. Truth be told though, that girl could live off bananas, sweet potatoes, and toast if we let her! So, it’s important to us to provide Eleni not only with healthy, plant-based meals, but also quick & easy options! While a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a fair go-to, it doesn’t take long before she gets (understandably) bored with it.

Toddler Friendly ECOLunchbox

So, today we’re bringing you our top five easy-pack lunches along with our favorite new traveling container, the Origami Tote Kit. I’ve actually been eyeing up this lunchbox for quite a while now! Not only does it have a very unique, origami-inspired look, but the designers at ECOLunchBox also have a whole line of eco-friendly products for all your snacking and storage needs.

Eco-friendly, chic and affordable? Needless to say, we love it.

Now, before I share the healthy lunches, I feel the need to explain WHY we have steered clear of classic plastic containers and bags. And the answer may not be obvious.

Using eco-friendly products can help reduce/eliminate environmental exposures that could impact our health.

It has been found that 90% of our exposure to a chemical called bisphenol A, or better known as BPA, comes from everyday food related items. These items include, but are not limited to: food storage, canned foods, and beverage containers. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical. (1) It’s even found on cash register receipts!

You’ve probably heard that BPA negatively impacts our health before, but do you know why?

BPA is actually a weak synthetic estrogen. Not what you were expecting, right? Actually, exposure to excessive amounts of estrogen can increase the risk of hormone-receptor-positive cancers….so, we want to try to and steer clear of BPA whenever possible.

Eleni Opening ECOlunchbox.jpg

As if the risk of cancer wasn’t scary enough, a study found that pregnant women with high levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have daughters who showed signs of hyperactivity, anxiety and depression. (2)

I know. Not cool.

Another common chemical compound found in food containers and everyday plastics, are fast-food take out containers. Unfortunately, researchers from George Washington University found that individuals who eat outside of their home on a regular basis (e.g. fast food, take-out, etc.) have 35% higher levels of phthalates in their bodies. And just like BPA, phthalates are hormone disruptors which are linked to infertility, birth defects, difficulty losing weight and once again, cancer. (3)

So what’s a family to do?

We know what you’re thinking; how could anyone completely avoid plastic? You’re right--it’s practically impossible to be 100% plastic free. But what we can do is control and reduce our levels of exposure.

And that’s how our journey with ECOLunchboxes began. Not only does it limit our exposure to BPA, phthalates and other toxic chemicals commonly found in plastic containers, it’s a fun product our daughter loves to bring to Grandma’s house!

Okay, onto the foodie stuff...drumroll please!

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Here’s are our 5 favorite back-to-school lunches!

1. Veggie Wraps + Sliced Apples with Nut/Sunflower Butter, Cinnamon & [Allergen Free] Mini Chocolate Chips

Parent Tips:

These veggie wraps can include any variety of vegetables your child enjoys or you have on hand. Simply cut & prep vegetables over the weekend and these wraps will be ready in a pinch!

If your child attends a nut-free school or daycare, try sunflower butter instead!

2. Fiesta Pasta Salad + Sliced Melon & Grapes + Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites

Fiesta Pasta Salad and Fruit - Wholesome LLC

Parent Tips:

This pasta salad made with legume-based pasta, such as Banza, is a perfect way to add fiber to your child’s day.

Prep the energy bites over the weekend. These will be a super quick add to your child’s lunch...and yours!

3. Bean & Avocado “Quesadilla” Wrap with Vegan Parm + Mixed Berries + Non-Dairy Yogurt

Bean and Avocado Quesadilla Wrap - Wholesome LLC

Parent Tips:

This is by far one of the most common lunches we send with Eleni! Keep it super simple with a whole grain wrap, canned [BPA free, of course!] fat-free refried beans, and diced avocado. You could also buy 100-calorie guacamole packs instead of dicing avocado.

When choosing a non-dairy yogurt, aim for the plain varieties and add fruit to naturally sweeten. Even though it is non-dairy, many of these yogurts can still be loaded with sugar.

4. Avocado, Chickpea, & Pesto Sandwich + Melon + Whole Grain Crackers

Avocado, Chickpea, and Pesto Sandwich - Wholesome LLC

Parent Tips:

This sandwich can certainly be made into a wrap instead!

The avocado/chickpea/pesto filling can be made at least one day ahead of time.

We love adding healthy whole grain crackers for a little crunch when the bread cannot necessarily be toasted for a child’s lunch.

5. Quick Hummus & Quinoa Wraps (see recipe below) + Raw Vegetables + Fruit & Green Snack Bar

Quinoa Hummus Wrap with Veggies .jpg

Parent Tips:

If you prefer, simply purchase frozen & cooked quinoa from the frozen section of the grocery store instead of making your own. Or, prep some quinoa over the weekend.

As much as we love making it fresh (according to product instructions), it isn’t always possible.

Store bought hummus will do just fine here.

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Here’s to a happy & healthy start of the new school year!

Quick Hummus & Quinoa Wraps

Makes 4 Wraps | Ready in 15 Minutes (if that!)

ingredients 

Quick Hummus and Quinoa Wraps - Wholesome LLC

4, Angelic Bakehouse Sprouted Grain Wraps (or tortillas you have on hand)

1 cup of your favorite hummus (we love Sabra's Pine Nut Hummus or Engine 2 Hummus)

1 cup cooked quinoa or desired grain (farro, barley and brown rice are great options)

2 cups fresh spinach (or a green your kid will most likely eat 😀) 

Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Avocado, diced (optional)

Splash of lemon juice (optional)

directions

Spread 1/4 cup of hummus on each wrap (or tortilla). Then top with 1/4 cup quinoa (or other grain). Then top with a handful of spinach (or other green) and with tomatoes.

If you plan to use avocado add it to the wrap and splash lemon juice on it so prevent the avocado from going brown by lunchtime. 

Yes, it's that easy. 

If your child isn't into one or two of these ingredients, switch it up! If they like sweet peppers, add those. If they like cucumbers, add those. Just keep it easy and healthy! 

References:

  1. Greger, M., MD. (2016, August 8). Re: How to Avoid the Obesity-Related Plastic Chemical BPA [Video blog comment]. Retrieved August 5, 2018, from https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-avoid-the-obesity-related-plastic-chemical-bpa/

  2. Exposure to Chemicals in Plastic. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic\

  3. Dining out Associated with Increased Exposure to Harmful Chemicals Called Phthalates. (28 March 2018) Retrieved August 6, 2018 from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-03/gwu-doa032318.php\

This blog post is not sponsored by ECOLunchbox or Thrive market, but does contain their affiliate links. All other links are products we love. All opinions of the products are our own. If you purchase something through affiliate links, Wholesome may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. The commission goes towards the cost to keep our blog running we can continue to provide you with evidence-based research and practices to prevent, manage, and reverse chronic disease.

Back to School Lunch Ideas - Wholesome LLC