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What Not to Pack in Your Child’s Lunch Box


By Rebecca Jacobs

School lunches can be tricky, especially for picky eaters, or for kids who would rather eat what the cafeteria has to offer. The thing is, cafeteria food isn’t the best option, despite the fact that many schools are getting a little better about what they offer on their menus. Common ingredients often found in kid’s lunch box items may be causing harm to your child’s health and shouldn’t be there.


Let’s look at five of them:



Sodium nitrate is found in deli meat. Nitrate is used to help prevent the growth of certain strains of bacteria, however, when nitrates are exposed to heat during the cooking process, the combination of the nitrate and the amines that are naturally found in meats, form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. (1) This is a known carcinogen that is associated with cancer. To avoid nitrates found in deli meats, skip the deli altogether and use whole chicken or turkey breast on sandwiches. You can even switch to nitrate-free sandwich meats such as those available through Apple Gate Farms.



Sugar is found in nearly every food, but it seems to exist in even higher quantities in commonly consumed children’s foods. Things like juice, milk, baked goods, and even sandwich bread can be very high in sugar. To avoid adding excess sugar to your child’s lunch box, strive to avoid juice boxes, and add a homemade fruit-infused water instead. It’s simple. Just mix fresh berries with water. Remember to look for added sugar in things like breads and baked products.


Enriched White Flour

You may notice enriched white flour as an ingredient commonly found in many of your children’s snacks and cereals. It’s best to stay away from it as it is stripped of all of its nutritional value due to the removal of the grain when the flour is processed. White flour can also lead to blood sugar swings, which isn’t what you want when you’re trying to fill your child’s lunch box with brain-boosting foods for a full day at school. Avoid processed snacks with enriched or simply white flour, and opt for a better option that contains whole wheat or gluten-free flours such as rice or quinoa. Annie’s brand carries snacks that are organic, GMO free, and contain no refined flours. 


High fructose corn syrup is a sugar commonly found in things like soda, juice, and again, sandwich breads and cereals. High fructose corn syrup consumption can lead to an increased risk of developing diabetes and obesity, not to mention the crash-and-burn effect high sugar products have on blood sugar. Sodas also promote cancer, as do other highly sugared items. Skip the soda, sugared cereals, and anything with high fructose corn syrup altogether and stick with more natural sweetening options such as raw honey, pure maple syrup, or even a little coconut sugar once in a while.



MSG, which stands for monosodium glutamate, is a neurotoxin. It can be found in Chinese foods as well as in flavored chips, broths, soups, snack foods, and anything else that is processed or packaged. Stay clear of MSG and always check the label on any food packaging before putting it in your child’s lunch. Even if the wording on the front is trying to represent the food as healthy, always check the back to see what’s actually in it.


To help you avoid putting these ingredients in their lunch boxes, her are two easy ideas for options you and your child will love:


Homemade Lunchable:


3 slices nitrate-free Applegate Farms sandwich meat

2 slices Applegate Farms cheddar cheese

1/2 cup organic grapes

1 package Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks

6 gluten-free Mary’s Gone Crackers

Water with 6 berries and a splash of lemon juice


Take the nitrate-free sandwich meat and roll each slice with half a slice of the cheddar cheese.

Pack the lunch box with the grapes, gummy bunnies, and gluten-free crackers, and add some berry infused water.


Chicken and Hummus Bento Box


1 ounce leftover chicken breast, sliced

1 pita, cut into triangles

1/4 cup hummus

1/4 cup cherry or grape organic tomatoes

1 cup organic strawberries with 2 tablespoons organic whipped cream


Assemble the bento box with the chicken breast in one section, the grape tomatoes in another, and the pita and strawberries separately.

Include a side of hummus and organic whipped cream for the berries.

The bottom line is that home-packed lunches are much safer options than those your child may have access to at the school cafeteria. When you pack your child’s lunch, knowing what foods to avoid, you are in charge of what goes into it, and ultimately, what goes into your child’s body. Avoid sugar, toxins, and artificial products and stick to whole food options for healthy brain function and an improvement in your child’s overall health



Applegate Lunch Meat:

Annies Products:

Annies Fruit Snacks:

Mary’s Gone Crackers:


Rebecca Jacobs is a holistic nutritionist who believes in a non-traditional approach to achieving health goals. She understands that everyone’s journey is different, and she is aware that one size does not fit all. Some of Rebecca’s areas of interest include detoxification, weight loss, kidney health, food sensitivities, and digestive health.

THIS WEBSITE IS NOT INTENDED FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING MEDICAL ADVICE. All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.​

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