We've all heard the benefits of packing a waste-free lunch vs. buying a school lunch. Beyond better nutrition and taste, packed school lunches, when packed in reusable lunch gear, cut down dramatically on school lunch waste. However, if you're the parent of a middle or high school aged kid (like me) even if¬†your kid prefers to carry a packed lunch, an adorable, pastel lunch bag splattered with cute animal designs just isn't going to cut it. Not to mention, most reusable lunch bags for kids are too small for older kid appetites. That said, we've rounded up some older kid appropriate lunch bags that will allow you to pack a healthy school lunch with less waste AND your kid won't shy away from carrying this gear to school.
Packed lunch tips for older kids
- Keep it safe: Avoid lunch bags made with PVC, virgin plastic, BPA and other questionable materials.
- Make sure the bag has room for lunch and snacks: Older kids tend to not only eat more, but they often have more after school activities, and they’ll need to fuel up more often than a six year-old.
- Avoid little kid designs: Let your child pick his own lunch bag from among many eco-choices, or you may end up with a bag your child refuses to carry to school. Case-in-point, some older kids love fun designs as much as younger kids, but for the last two years, my almost 15 year-old has requested plain old black, gray or blue lunch bags. Boring to me – cool to him.
- Don’t forget drinks: Older kids need more fluids, especially kids involved in after school sports. I usually send not one, but two, good-sized reusable beverage containers to school with my son.
- Keep it cool: Research shows that 90% of packed¬†lunches contain food at¬†unsafe temperature levels. Use reusable ice packs in your child’s lunch.
- Don’t forget the extras: Many lunch bags don’t come with the extras you need, such as reusable containers, cloth napkins or beverage bottles. You’ll need to pick up some extra lunch gear when you buy a bag.
St√∂h Lunch Tote
Years ago we featured the¬†St√∂h lunch tote, and it’s still just as awesome, only now it’s available in many different colors to suit pretty much any older kid’s taste.¬†St√∂h is a modern and¬†practical solution for packed lunches, featuring a lightweight, flat-pack design. While compact, when opened,¬†St√∂h has a large¬†interior compartment that will hold enough lunch and snacks to satisfy the largest appetites.¬†The bag is constructed of durable, PVC, phthalate, lead and BPA-free materials, plus it’s insulated to keep foods cold longer. The¬†water-repellant finish and the interior lining wipe clean with a wet towel and¬†two mesh pockets keep smaller items separate and easy to access. Comes with an easy to personalize¬†ID tag. If you have little ones, check out the adorable Milkdot packs¬†for young tots too.
LunchBots makes it easy to assemble a lunch kit for your picky tween or teen. Start with their¬†heathered gray eco-felt fabric lunch bag made from recycled plastic. Bags are trimmed in gray, blue or pink and are insulated with a PVC-free material. These attractive bags are specifically designed to carry 2-3 LunchBots containers,¬†a water bottle, cutlery, and cloth napkin.¬†Once you choose your bag,¬†grab some bento containers¬†in any configuration you like plus a beverage bottle and you’ll have a ready-to-go lunch kit.
Reuseit Insulated Lunch Bag
Reuseit makes excellent exclusive products that used to be marketed under ACME. Now their products are simply under the Reuseit name, but they’re just are durable and long-lasting. Their Insulated Lunch Bag¬†is hefty enough to hold a six-pack plus a sandwich and a few sides, so it’s great for a teen’s huge appetite. A top zippered pocket is sized to fit an ice pack and an extra side, while the lunch tote’s see-through mesh back pocket can hold extra¬†personal items like keys, a cell phone and more. The bag is BPA-free, lead-free and phthalate-free and available in four colors.
PlanetBox lunch kits are more expensive than most, because you’ll want to invest in a carry bag as well as the bento box, but keep in mind that PlanetBox gear lasts forever. My son had his original PlanetBox for years, using it for both school and summer camp, and it held up great. The Launch is unique in that it suits an older kid, holding 30% more than other PlanetBoxes (or¬†6.5 cups of food or a 3 course meal). Each Launch includes one tall dipper container.¬†PlanetBox uses¬†stainless steel and other¬†safe, non-toxic, and recycled materials – safe from lead, PVC, phthalates, and BPA for their gear. If you want to invest in a whole, complete kit, your least expensive bet may be to check on Amazon.
Bistro Lunch Tote
The Bistro Lunch Tote is a much more adult looking bag, so perfect for teens, plus BUILT NY makes bags in all kinds of colors and designs. This specific lunch tote features an ultra roomy interior that fits a 54 ounce container, with additional room for a¬†beverage and snack.¬†Constructed of neoprene, the bag¬†stretches to accommodate all your essentials, while an interior mesh pocket holds¬†utensils or condiments. The bag also¬†insulates food and is machine washable.
BlueAvocado Click ‘n Go Bag Kit
The Click n’ Go kit is a practical, reusable set of lunchtime essentials¬†made to minimize waste.¬†The lunch bag has a secure roll-top closure with hook and loop tabs to keep your snacks secure inside¬†and a¬†snap buckle on the handle. The exterior fabric is made of 50% post-consumer recycled plastic water bottles¬†and each bag comes with two of¬†BlueAvocado’s innovative (re)zip‚ĄĘ reusable baggies so you can pack up a hassle-free, healthy lunch without having to use a single wasteful plastic disposable.
Insulated Lunch Tote
The ultimate in recycling and reuse, this insulated lunch tote with zipper closure and adjustable strap is made from recycled plastic bottles and will keep your lunch cold or hot for hours. There’s an inside pocket for an ice pack, bamboo utensil and cotton napkin. Plus the bag is machine-washable!¬†Bag and strap made from 100% non-toxic recycled PET #1 plastic bottles. Insulation is non-toxic PE #1 plastic.¬†Add a¬†Leak-Proof Container Set¬†into the mix and a beverage bottle and this is a near-perfect lunch kit for tweens and teens.