I’m never sure what I should pack in my child’s lunchbox. What do you suggest?

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

It’s easier than you might think to send your child off to school with a lunchbox full of food he’ll eat. Start with cold pasta in fun shapes, like corkscrews or wagon wheels. Or you might opt for a vegetable sandwich. A hummus sandwich on multigrain bread is a winner. Then put in lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, cut into small pieces that children can eat easily. Instead of potato chips or nachos, buy nonfat whole wheat tortillas in the grocery store and cut them into wedges. Bake them in the oven and they turn into crispy little nonfat chips. Send along a container of bean dip and your child will have a healthy, tasty, nonfat snack that isn’t out of place with the food his friends are eating. Again, pack water or diluted fruit juice so he gets enough liquid.

You may have noticed that I don’t recommend a peanut butter sandwich, even though peanuts are relatively high in protein. There is a reason for this. Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes, and they are very high in fat. In 1990, Consumer Reports stated that virtually all peanut butter contains aflatoxin, which is a carcinogenic mold that develops in peanuts when they are stored. Furthermore, most commercial peanut butter is full of oil, salt, and sugar. It’s not much healthier than candy. A small amount of home-ground or health store peanut butter may be used from time to time, but not more than once a week.

Don’t be concerned if your child doesn’t eat everything, or anything, you send in his lunch box! When children are hungry, they eat. Missing a lunch here and there isn’t going to hurt them. It’s more important that you work with your school to ensure children in the beginning grades aren’t allowed to trade foods with each other. It is self-defeating if you send healthy food and your child eats out of his friend’s lunch box instead. It is the school’s responsibility to monitor this and your responsibility to be a vocal parent in defense of your child’s good nutrition.