Guest Blog: Lunch Tips from Project Bread

Kirk Conrad is the Chef in Residence at Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger, the largest antihunger organization in Massachusetts. For the past 5 years, Chef Kirk has worked in schools to change the food culture and eating habits of elementary, middle, and high school students. For more information on Project Bread, please

As the Chef in Residence for Project Bread, I spend my days preparing nutritious lunches for students in schools, and ensuring that the meals kids eat at school are healthy ones. However, as a father of two, I know how difficult it can be to pack lunches that are both appealing and good for them. I’ve come up with a few tips that can make packing a wholesome, nutritious lunchbox a lot easier:

  • Pack tomato and lettuce separately from sandwiches, as they can make sandwiches soggy and unappealing to kids.
  • Making the switch from chocolate milk to 1% white milk can be easier than you think. To enforce this, you can take the hard line and make it the only thing you’re going to offer. A second thing is to make sure to educate your kids on how important it is for them to have the nutrients in white milk as opposed to strawberry and vanilla milk. Education and reinforcement are the best tools you have as a parent. And, finally, make every effort to keep milk very cold. Do this by keeping it in the refrigerator until morning and packing it right by the ice pack.
  • At the grocery store, look for low-sodium and low-fat deli meats.
  • To convince your kids to eat fruits and veggies at lunch, cut them into small, easy-to-eat pieces. If you cut up apples, douse with a little lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.
  • If your child is a picky eater, substitute classics for healthier options. For example, if your child is a big peanut butter and jelly fan, you can give him or her a no-trans-fat sunflower-seed spread with a no-sugar fruit preserve.
  • If my kids eat their healthy food, I feel that they can have a treat. Sometimes I buy baked multi-grain chips or vegetable chips in small packages. Look for reduced salt varieties. Also there are 100-calorie cookies that make a nice treat. We discuss the fact that their lunch comes first and then the treat.

When packing your child’s lunch, include them in the process. This is the most important step in making healthier lunches for kids. Talk about what ingredients are going in, you need to gain buy-in. If the kids don’t like what’s in the lunchbox, they simply will not eat it. You have to educate your children that what they have for lunch matters. My girls have taught me that it’s important to urge them to try new things and to compromise as we start the new school year.

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6 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Lunch Tips from Project Bread

  1. Really? Whatever is wrong with PB&J? Sunflower seed butter? Ok….you do realize that in one fell swoop, you are doubling the cost of lunch?

    I fed–fairly healthily–3 kids to adulthood. Not one of them is overweight. But at the same time, I never micromanaged their food. Sun Chips? 100 calorie cookies?

    Try managing your kids activity level instead of giving them a lifelong obsession with food and weight. Get out there, move with the kids, turn off—or better yet throw out—the damn television and video games, and stop being so terrified that 10 year old kids are watched in their yards.

    1. I think you’ve got some good points here. I don’t think peanut butter is making kids fat. Peanut butter is making me fat though — man, do I love that stuff!

  2. I agree with Lisa. Unless the school has a no peanut/nut butter policy, there’s nothing wrong with pb&j. You can use natural peanut butter and fruit preserves if you want.

    1. Even though I don’t know anyone with a nut allergy, I really do think there should be a no peanut products policy. I would hate to be the parent causes an allergic (and potentially deadly) reaction in somebody’s else’s kid!

  3. Peanuts are loaded with mold. They are not a nut, but a legume. I agree, schools should ban it if any child or staff member has a peanut allergy. Look at the poor 7th grader that died in CPS last year from a peanut oil reaction in Chinese food at a classroom party.

    Sunbutter is pricey, but really, it’s only a matter of time before our immune systems attack all proteins in food and we are left on diets of water and air.


  4. But the point is this: while the food has changed somewhat, the activity level of the kids I know has changed so much more. Whatever happened to ” Don’t come home til dinner” and playing outside? “Stay outside and come home when I call you?”

    Parents are creating issues by micromanaging the food when they buy video games, cable tv and all sorts of idiotic computer games for the kids. Food isn’t the main issue. If the kids were running around, they wouldn’t be eating. If they had gym and recess, they could eat whatever.

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