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Packing Home Lunch, sans Orthorexia

Posted Sep 02 2011 1:24am

Morning television.  A concept unbeknown to me from about 2001-2010.  In my recent life, once the alarm went off, I hit the shower, the morning dressing routine, grabbed my lunch bag, coffee, and work bag, and was off.  A 45 minute commute would ensue, then I was on my feet until 4pm, when the behind the scenes work began.  Phone calls, emails, saying hello to coworkers, prepping for another day, looking over work and giving feedback, tidying up, and then the hour plus commute home.  Those were the days without two hour meetings after school.  The most recent year and a half of that routine included daycare drop off and pick up, which included two lunch bags and plenty of other bags.  Even ones toting a potty chair.  And breakfasts.

My bags strung over my limbs, neck, hands and back were somewhat like pieces of moving (awkward) contemporary art.  Can you relate?  I get my neck and back adjusted by a chiropractor at least biweekly in my latest nine month chapter of life.

I bring up morning television and packed lunches for a reason.  This last week, they were both front and center in my mind.  If life hadn’t swept me off to Seattle, I’d be packing lunches for my three year old and myself as of this week, as workshop week in Minnesota school districts is underway.  Instead, I found myself sitting down and catching a few minutes of the Today show.  Strange concept.  While trying to score a weather report, I landed upon a brief segment on Orthorexia.  Have you heard of it?  It’s labeled the “different kind of eating disorder”.  In short, it’s not yet an official clinical term, but a name for a food-focused obsession about restriction causing anxiety or stress to a disease-state.  The self-imposed food or ingredient restrictions can vary as much as the sufferers do.  The way it was explained on the show made it seem more like isolation from social food and mainstream ingredients, than a debilitating disease (which I believe it to be).  It left the definition hazy : overly concerned about eating healthy food.  That could describe a whole lot of people.

Being concerned over food ingredients?  Isn’t that what I do?  Plenty.  But there’s no lack of eating going on here.  There are alternative choices being made, along with ingredient avoidance, including the packing of home lunches.  I am far from alone, as I shop the natural food aisles at various stores, read natural food blogger posts, read books like Green For Life, and get interested in Paleo style, it’s clear I’m forging ahead in a pack.  This pack is prioritizing their budgets to make wellness their permanent trump card.

With the average American drinking 57 gallons of soda per year, I venture to say that more of us should share food ingredient concerns.  Obsess or make ourselves sick about them, please no.  Learn to cook and pack lunches, all the more.  I am concerned with restricting chemicals from my family’s food.  This is why I bring my own lunch, and pack my kiddo’s when needed.  Pregnant women are concerned about restricting alcohol from their diet.  Some restrictions have wise rationale.

I still get occasional treats when out and about.  They’re not all organic or whole food, no doubt.  That’s where my restrictions don’t cross into obsession or lack of food territory.  If we’re hungry, we eat around here.  We just try our best to get good food into our systems.  Having been in the school system myself, then working in it for years, I’ve seen it all.  I’m grateful to have the option to pack my child her own lunch.  I look forward to a day when our schools serve our children with their health and wellness in mind.  Here’s to the art of finding a balance.

Let your food be medicine and medicine be your food. –Hippocrates

Packing Home Lunch

Starting at 15 months of age, my daughter started out of the home child care, and started carrying a breakfast and lunch bags.  Everyday, my daughter’s food bag looked a little different.  But we always packed two staples: a stainless steel water bottle and a carton of almond milk.  She used to drink gallons of water and almond milk a day.  We started packing only water for her when she was two.

While my kiddo would eat a little something at home, and sometimes snack during our long commute, she could put back multiple breakfasts.  It’s still her biggest meal of the day.  Here are some of the things in her breakfast on the go bag:


Fruit dish: I spent lots of time halving fresh fruit.  Whatever was in season, and whatever looked good.  Usually a pretty mix of, but sometimes just one.  The regulars were any and all berries, grape halves, mango slices, orange slices, pineapple chunks and avocado slices.  I threw a bunch in a rubbermaid [yes, it's what I had] and that dish always returned home empty.  Every time.

Yogurt: To save money and spare sugar, I usually sent some plain organic yogurt in a home container.  My daughter applauded when I added a swirl of maple syrup or honey.  As my schedule grew more demanding, I sent individual organic kid-pack yogurt.  I say organic because some of the stuff marketed as yogurt should be ashamed, as it’s little more than cold high fructose corn syrup or pink aspartame .

Then I’d send things I had prepared the night (even weekend) before.  Usually something like a Egg and cheese toast/sandwich
Homemade pancake



A cup of frozen peas.  I used to buy loads of bags of organic frozen peas from Trader Joe’s.  This container usually returned home empty too.  Sometimes they were eaten thawed.  Others, frozen.  My kiddo still loves frozen peas.

Varied Lunch Items *Leftovers on hand*: (packed in a thermos or whatever container I could find) *I’d purposely make huge batches of these on weekends for a’packin.

Sweet potato fries (still a favorite)
Homemade soup, like my hubby’s minestrone
Salmon (pretty often) and always wild
Mashed potatoes
Risotto (I can’t wait to get into risotto mode again as fall approaches)
Any veggies leftover from dinner
Eggplant parmesan
Shrimp/rice pilaf
Salmon burgers
And… some days it was leftover nea pizza from Punch.  It’s about a balance.  Wow, I miss Punch Pizza .


Cheese stick
Avocado half
Boxed raisins
Cottage cheese
Clementines in the winter (usually 3-4)
Lara bars
Individual organic applesauce

Beware of:
Baby carrots (most dipped in bleach)
Fruit snacks (high in sugar and artificial dyes) Clif Twists or Trader Joe’s organic leather are alternatives I like
Non-organic apples or applesauce (top on the EPA’s Dirty Dozen pesticide lists)

I hope you find your own balance in packing home lunch.  Maybe it doesn’t happen everyday, but you can still rock it.

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