With forward planning and the right tools, achieving a sustainable, nude food lunchbox doesn’t need to mean hours of prep in the kitchen. Nude food or a ‘naked’ lunchbox refers to no packaging or plastics and wrappers in children’s daily school meals. With our impact on the environment and sustainable practices reaching mainstream awareness, it has never been more important to give lunchboxes a healthy and earth-conscious overhaul, whether your school demands it or not.
But is this achievable for time-poor families and working parents? The answer is yes! Follow these top 6 tips and anyone can achieve nude food lunchboxes this year and beyond:
- Use a bento-style lunchbox with compartments
Naked lunchboxes are often the by-product of using multi-section, bento-style lunchbox storage solutions, where food is decanted into various compartments. These lunchbox varieties empower children with the choice of what to eat first, and the ability to pace themselves as they see the meal on offer at a glance. They are also a handy reminder for parents to ensure variety is a daily habit. There are several choices on the market, from BPA free plastic to stainless steel solutions. See Planetbox, LunchBots, Stuck on You and Yumbox.
“I always encourage parents to offer fresh, seasonal produce in the lunchbox and to cook from fresh wherever possible. I am a big advocate of variety in the lunchbox to prevent children becoming fussy eaters, and to ensure they receive a wholesome, nutritious diet from a range of sources. It’s time to move beyond the daily sandwich or wrap!” says Paediatric Nutritionist and Founder of Wholesome Child, Mandy Sacher.
- Opt for washable thermos lunch storage solutions, especially when the weather cools
No one wants to eat cold leftovers, but using last night’s dinner in tomorrow’s lunchbox is a brilliant time-saving hack that ensures children receive a nutritious tummy-filling meal. But, you will need the right container and reusable cutlery to make this achievable. Eating a warm meal is not only a cold weather thing – it provides variety and offers more nutrition than a child’s everyday sandwich (which often tends to be the same).
“Fresh, homemade food is naturally without packaging and leaves a gentler footprint on the environment. Think of family meals and left overs as perfect lunchbox additions for the next day” says Sacher.
- Choose larger packs rather than individually wrapped snacks from the supermarket, and decant them
With store bought lunchbox fillers, Wholesome Child advises parents to choose larger packs (rather than individually portioned snacks) and decant them on a daily basis. Examples include; lightly salted popcorn, roasted chickpeas, seaweed, wholegrain crackers, mini cheeses, olives, protein balls or bites, toasted coconut chips, seeds and healthy store-bought dips such as hummus. Don't forget you can supercharge the nutrition content of many store bought options with Veggies+, Protein+ or Superfruits+ in no time!
When purchasing supermarket items for children it is important to look at the sodium content and avoid any added sugars, flavourings or preservatives wherever possible. Ideally, children should eat low sodium products (150 mg/100grams) and definitely no higher than 500mg/100grams.
- Wash, peel and cut up veggies and fruit ahead of time and store in air tight containers in the fridge
Veggies and fruit can easily last for 3-4 days in the fridge in air tight containers, making it quick and easy to fill up those compartments with nutritious options. If you prep some on a Sunday night and again mid-week, you should be covered with a variety of seasonal, fresh lunchbox additions such as cucumbers, carrots, capsicum, celery, tomatoes and corn. Left over salad from dinner can also be a handy source of lunchbox food! If your child is going through a fussy phase, make sure they still get the nutrients they need by boosting their sandwiches, muffins, or muesli bars with Veggies+ (see The Wholesome Kitchen for recipe inspo).
“I always recommend that parents aim to offer a rainbow of different coloured veggies and fruit throughout the week to tick off the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that kids need to thrive. As long as there’s something in there you know they’ll eat, exposure to different colours, shapes, textures and tastes can only benefit their eating behaviours and overall wellbeing long term.” says Sacher.
- Batch cook lunchbox friendly snacks and store them in labelled containers in the freezer
Taking out a lunchbox friendly muesli bar, bliss ball or mini muffin from your freezer stash is an easy way to keep to a nude food offering, without slaving in the kitchen for too long. One batch of muffins or bliss balls can last weeks when using one at a time. And you need only remove it from the freezer in the morning for it to be perfectly fresh by recess or lunch. And if you don’t have a freezer full, there are great store-bought options that tick this box (see above).
- Decant yoghurt into little pots or leak-proof compartments instead of sending squeezie pouches
Many kids love their daily yoghurt fix, but squeezie pouches are not the most sustainable option. Opt for reusable pouches or decant yogurt into mini pots or leak-proof lunchbox sections and send a reusable spoon instead. Add a dash of a Wholesome Child+ booster to supercharge the nutrition value of their yoghurt! Best part is Protein+ can bring a touch of vanilla or chocolatey deliciousness or Superfruits+ can deliver a fun and tasty pink berry sensation too!