School Lunch Advice From Your Older Sis

Hiya, Little Sis! How’s tricks?

I was thinking about you today while standing in line to sign up for next year’s summer camp. (We’re doing this awesome Lego/Robotics/Stanford-prep thing that I should totally tell you about.) I can’t believe your little guy — my sweet nephew — starts preschool this week. Reminds me when my girls were just starting, before second grade took its toll. Oh, the salad years!

I realized there’s a whole school lunch scene that’s kind of intense that you may not know about, and I thought I could give you some advice. I mean, it’s really different from when we were growing up. And since I live in Brooklyn, we’re kind of on the frontlines of a lot of school lunch trends, so maybe my experience can be useful here? I wrote down some stuff for you.

1. Dad makes the lunch. If I were to tell you only one thing, it would be this. These days, that’s his job. I know that’s a little weird because your husband travels a lot, so it might be tough. But moms talk about this stuff and you really don’t want to look like you’re whipped, know what I mean? Especially since you’re home. If he complains, just show him this dad and ask him about his level of commitment. Worked for me!

2. Do the sandwich research. Remember how we used to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day? We’re lucky we didn’t die! No peanuts or tree nuts or OMG someone will throw a fit. You will probably have four or five children who have peanut allergies in this year’s class, seriously. Just use the damn SunButter. (Honestly, I didn’t know there was a difference between seeds and nuts, but apparently, one causes death. Whatev.)

Also: nobody does PB&J anymore. It’s all about the honey. But you have to buy it from a farmer’s market, so you can gain immunity to local allergies. (I’m really lucky to live in Brooklyn, where artisanal beekeepers are on nearly every block.) And buy gluten-free bread just in case he’s intolerant. You don’t want him gassing up “free rest” time. I promise you the teachers will mention it.

(Graphic: Kat Borosky/

3. You can’t just put something in a Ziploc and call it a snack. Dude: Dad gave us Oreos. Sick, right? Our kids are so lucky to live in the future.

Snacks that are off limits:

Carrots – he’ll choke.

Grapes – he’ll choke.

Hot dogs – he’ll choke, and also, do you know how many nitrates are in a standard hot dog? Me neither, but it’s a lot.

Strawberries – he could be allergic.

Eggs – good lord, no! At least three kids in your class will have egg allergies.

Pretzels – these are ok only under extreme duress. They’re just little carb delivery sticks — practically empty calories.

Cookies or other sweets – Not even kidding, the teachers will take them away. Just imagine THAT meltdown.

Snacks I recommend:

Kale chips! They’re on trend and have just the right balance of healthy nutrients and snack fun. I’m pretty sure every kid loves kale chips. Your kid’s normal, right? 😉

4. Package properly. Above all, your food containers must be BPA-free, plus spill-, dishwasher- and microwave-proof. So no plastic, glass or aluminum. Or paper, really. In the absence of any remaining materials, I found these amazing fabric pouches by LunchSkins that seal with Velcro. It’s a little sucky scraping off macaroni and gouda remnants after school, but totally worth it to know no toxins are leaching into your son’s lunch. When he gets bored of the standard patterns (my girls did), use this simple DIY sewing pattern to make your own designs. Sure, it’s labor intensive, but these are the things we do for love. I know you feel the same.

5. Pick the right water bottle. Forget it, water bottles are impossible. The ones that aren’t ugly or marketing the latest unhip movie have been picked by someone else already, and let me warn you that showing up with the same water bottle on the first day of school is like wearing the same dress to Prom. Your mantra is: no pirates, no monkeys. In fact, I’m going to help you out here, Sis — pick this ocean theme and move on. Trust me.

6. Finally, the lunch box. This is kind of a big deal, but now that you’ve done the research, it’s time to pull everything together. Using the ocean themed water bottle with shark fabric as a focal point, wrap them all in this gorgeous matching shark lunchbox by Seaworld.

You can customize and personalize it, and it also comes with a chalkboard inside for daily inspirational messages. Super cute, right? I know he can’t read yet, but I’m sure the teacher won’t mind reading it to him while she’s opening lunches for the other 32 kids in his class. Just make sure you drill it with her on the first-day drop-off, so it becomes part of her daily routine.

Anyway, I didn’t know I had so much to say! 😉 The main thing is to just relax and don’t overthink it. Trust your instincts. Go with your gut.

Much love from our family to yours,

Your big sis

Tell Us in the Comments

What do you think?

6 Responses

  1. Editor’s Note: Can I Sit Here? | Tue Night

    […] School Lunch Advice From Your Older Sis […]

  2. Margit

    lindastern TueNight agreed!

  3. MollyMM

    And don’t forget the cloth napkin and reusable utensils.  The most important feature about the water bottle, aside from it’s appearance, is that it doesn’t leak.  A leaky water bottle can ruin your kids entire organic and allergy-free lunch.

  4. AdriannaDufay

    You’re right, thanks for the reminder! Although I don’t mind paper napkins as long as the school is composting properly for their backyard heirloom garden.

  5. LaurenYoung1

    LOL. Check out these lunchboxes reviewed by Beth Pinsker. (Much more practical than my Charlie’s Angels lunchbox.)

  6. AdriannaDufay

    LaurenYoung1 I was a Charlie’s Angels fan, too! Although I think my lunchbox was Scooby Doo (I was Daphne, of course.) I have to admit, I kind of like these lunch box “systems,” even thought they’re sort of military…


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.