Monday, July 21, 2008

the quest for healthy, waste-free lunches

[Note: There's a chance that some of you might have had the tenacity to read this in its original format after I posted it on Monday afternoon. Since then I've decided that it was really long and worth breaking up into multiple posts.]

One change we know we have to make when we add a growing seven-year-old to our household is the amount of food we buy. Besides the additional food we eat at meal times, having a kid in the house means meeting the frequent demand for between-meal snacks. Our first instinct when we want a snack to is to reach for the bag of tortilla chips, but now we also stock up more at the farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on, and we make a lot of air-popped popcorn and homemade yogurt.

Because of our schedules, Khymi spends part of her time here going to day camp. Last year, she went to a camp that provided a "kid-friendly" lunch that turned out to include a lot of processed meats (lunch meat, chicken nuggets), processed cheeses, packaged chips and pretzels, and also some fresh fruit. It was nice for us not to have to bother packing a lunch, and it gave Khymi one less thing to keep track of, but we also felt like the food options could have been healthier and more varied. Khymi isn't the only kid I know who will happily eat healthy, whole foods if that's what's provided (she puts our eating habits at her age to shame). For some reason, "kid-friendly" often ends up meaning salty, sweet, starchy, bland, processed and over-packaged. (Take a look at any kids' menu anywhere and it's plain to see why so many parents are frustrated with the assumption that their kids are incapable of making healthy food choices.)

This year, we chose two day camps within walking distance of our house. Neither one provided a lunch. After last summer, it was kind of a relief to have more control over what Khymi was eating, but also a challenge, because we knew we'd have to come up with a healthy lunch and snacks every weekday for the time she was in camp. We were also dreading inevitable encounters with the more wasteful aspects of bag lunches: juice boxes, individual packages, and countless plastic baggies. As it turns out, we were able to make wholesome, kid-friendly lunches with little to no disposable waste. Over the next few days, I'll be posting what we've learned in four installments:

  1. Lunchboxes, containers, utensils
  2. Food
  3. Drinks
  4. "Hidden" waste reduction
Check back soon!

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