Clean, Safe Lunches During Omicron
10 ECOlunchbox Tips for Packing A Healthy School Lunch During Omicron
With the Omicron variant surging, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to packing a healthy lunch. ECOlunchbox has put together ten tips to guide families who plan to pack their kids' lunches.
#1 Take a break from cafeteria food
There's never been a better time to ditch school lunches and pack your own. Our opinion is undoubtedly biased as we're huge fans of homemade lunches, but packing a lunch box to eat in the classroom or outside on the playground is a great way to avoid some pitfalls of cafeteria food.
Likely, school food service may not look like it usually does. This could mean students risk wasting precious recess time due to staggered pick-up schedules or long lines. Many students will probably eat in their classrooms.
Packing a homemade lunch is the best way to keep kids healthy by reducing cross-contamination issues, maximizing nutrition, and controlling where your child takes off her mask to eat.
#2 Choose easy-peasy food containers
Whether students are eating at their desks, outside, or spaced apart at tables, aim to make them as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to selecting reusable lunch containers. This will minimize the need for assistance from teachers and staff as schools prioritize limited close contact.
Choose nontoxic, reusable lunch boxes like ECOlunchboxes so your child can open and close them independently. Our containers have easy-to-use clips or soft silicone lids designed for all ages. Check out our leakproof Blue Water Bento Seal Cup Trio with three stainless steel cups topped with ocean motif silicone lids.
We also have to stack bento designs with clips like our ECOlunchbox Three-in-One Classic and Blue Water Bento 3-in-1 Splash Box. If you’re looking for a complete set, we have lunch kits for sale that include lunchboxes along with coordinating machine-washable lunch bags and utensils.
#3 Let your child help choose their lunch menu
This isn't the season to share food, drinks, or utensils with others. Kids love to swap snacks and lunches to spice up their routine. This might have seemed cute before, but it's best to keep your lunch to yourself nowadays.
Sometimes it's easier for parents to take total control of all lunch packing. It's true; kids make everyday tasks slower. We encourage parents to commit to empowering their kids to choose some of what goes into their lunch. The more control students have over their lunch boxes, the more likely they'll eat what is packed.
#4 Bring a reusable water bottle
Drinking directly from the water fountain is not recommended at the moment. For now, consider packing your child a metal water bottle with ice alongside ECOlunchbox stainless steel food containers, so the bottle functions as an ice pack to keep food cool. Don’t freeze water in the bottle since frozen water expands and will split stainless steel bottles.
#5 Double down on immune-boosting fruits and vegetables
The easiest way to make sure lunchtime is packed with nutrition is to select foods from all colors of the rainbow. When it's possible, consider packing foods with immune-supporting nutrients, like vitamins C and D, zinc, and protein. Keep sugars to a minimum.
Small fruits with peels like tangerines, bananas, small single-serving apples, plums, and many other fruits/vegetables are easy grab-and-go choices! If you can, avoid "snack size" packaging and use your reusable ziplock bags to give your child a healthy serving size.
Here are a few powerfully nutritious options that pack well in snack containers: edamame, blueberries, celery with peanut butter, grainless granola, broccoli with yogurt dip, bulk purchased sunflower seeds, almonds, and other nuts.
#6 Clean hands and everything else
No matter what food you pack, kids are going to end up eating lunch with their hands. Your child's teacher should be having all kids wash their hands before eating, but in case the soap and water doesn't catch all the germs, it's not a bad idea to pack a small squeeze bottle of nontoxic hand sanitizer for your student. Use a carabiner to clip the reusable bottle to your child's backpack or lunchbox for easy access.
When it comes to face masks, they’re coming off at lunchtime. Help your child keep theirs handy by adding a lanyard so it can hang around their neck during lunchtime and won’t be misplaced.
Most kids are now accustomed to wearing a face mask but make sure to practice with little ones who are new. Don't forget to wash your child's mask daily!
#7 Save time by prepping lunch ahead
If you make a plan ahead of time, your morning self will thank you vehemently! How can you prep lunches? How about prepping cut fruits and vegetables on Sunday and having them ready to tuck into snack containers the whole week long?
Some parents choose to pack everything that won't get "soggy" (think: granola bars, fruit with peels, yogurts, etc.) on Sunday night and add the fresh things in the morning. Perhaps your prep work is simply setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier, so you can make sure to pack a great lunch for your student before scrambling out the door.
#8 Cook dinners with leftovers for lunch in mind
You can also plan dinner menus with lunchtime leftovers in mind, such as roasted vegetables, sturdy kale salads, grains with proteins for bowls, seared tofu, enchiladas, and other casseroles.
Keep in mind that the leftovers will probably be at room temperature by the time its lunchtime, so make sure you're not packing foods that might spoil with heat.
#9 Picky eater? Say no more!
If you have a child who has a more selective palate, you’re not forced to send them with only their favorite foods every day.
Instead, you can work together with them to pack a lunch with mostly “safe” or preferred foods, and then pack one small food that they haven’t tried or haven’t liked yet. This is a no-pressure item that can hopefully help your student to keep trying new things!
#10 Don't forget morning snacks and after-school activities!
Depending on what age your student is, they may have an opportunity for a morning snack. Especially if they're not big into eating a solid breakfast, this is a perfect opportunity to have your kid get an energy boost from a high-fat, high-protein snack. Think cottage cheese, whole milk yogurt, avocado, etc.
If your student has after-school activities and starts to walk in the door famished, it might be time to pack a snack after school. It doesn't need to be anything big, but something with some protein and fat will keep them fuller for longer amounts of time. Just don't expect them to come home and not ask, "What's for dinner?"
I hope these tips help get you and your family over the hump of "back to school" stressors. Wishing you all health and wellness as we start this new school year. If the kids or the adults in the family need new lunch containers—you know where to find us.