Healthy Choices for School Lunches

For some reason, in my house, 7th grade is the year when lunch boxes become uncool and the simple brown bag is all the rage.  When Eric eschewed his rugged insulated lunch box three years ago, I thought it was a product of his minimalist nature.  But last week I was shopping with Adam (my five foot eight inch almost thirteen year old baby) and it happened again.  There I was ready to purchase a really cool lunch box, complete with side water bottle holder, insulated "keep things hot or cool" side compartment, and two complimentary re-usable food containers.

"Mom, I don't need a lunch box.  I'll just use a bag…"

What?!  Not again!!!

What's the big deal about box vs. bag?  It stifles my creative ability to send certain items to school in the lunch bag.  Tupperware containers filled with last night's dinner leftovers, reheated at lunch time in the classroom microwave, get returned in the lunch box but never with the brown bag.  I fear turkey sandwiches will grow scary in an uninsulated brown bag without an accompanying "cold pack".   The brown bag signifies yet another step away from little kidhood into manliness.  I get sentimental…

All the box vs. bag talk has me thinking about what the heck to put in school lunches this year.  We're not lucky enough to have a cafeteria, so I need a full arsenal of healthy choices.  A recent note home from our school gave the following scary statistics:

donut (200 calories) vs. donut hole (40 calories)
costco muffin (680 calories, 39 g. fat) vs. mini-bagel (130 cal., 0 g. fat)
small bag of skittles (240 calories) vs. 2 cup bag of light microwave popcorn (40 calories)

Whose mom is sending skittles to school for lunch?  Adam tells me I'd be surprised.  The note prompted a great "meeting" discussion, where Adam and I talked over his ideas about good choices for school lunches this year.  Involving your child in the planning and preparation of school lunches may reduce the chances of his red apple getting swapped for a deadly costco muffin. 

Here are a few web sites to help you with healthy lunch ideas for this year:

On the Bookshelf:
Lunch Bag Notes: Everyday Advice From A Dad To His Daughter

Reading Room Resources:
Blog posts from this week related to Health and Fitness


Lisa Hendey, Catholic wife and mom, is the founder and webmaster of and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul and The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and hosts the Catholic Moments Podcast. Visit her at

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  • Guest

    Ugh, school lunches! I have both my boys in school this year and I will need to brown-bag (or in my case, insulated bag) my own lunch as well for my new job. School starts two weeks from Tuesday. I am so dreading it. I try to get the boys involved by having them pick what they want for lunch the next day. As long as it is mostly healthy, I'm OK with whatever they choose. I figure it increases the chances of it actually being eaten!