The 12 Worst Things You Can Pack For Your Kid's Lunch

Back to school not only means back to the books, it means back to the bad lunches. Eating patterns that begin in elementary and middle school may encourage poor eating habits into adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that childhood obesity starts in the home, and introducing healthy foods should be a top priority for parents.

Artificial Dyes

Start reading exactly what is in the packaged food you serve your children. "Studies suggest that the increasing use of dyes in our food supply leads to hyperactivity, chromosomal issues, lymphoma, and tumors," Wilday explains.


Unfortunately, candy has absolutely zero nutritional value and is high in sugar. Instead, give your children sweet but nutrient-dense alternatives. "Something like watermelon or berries will give them the bright colors they see in candy and a sweetness that is good for them," Wilday says. 


Especially during the school day, children need snacks that will fill them up, not leave them hungry. Chips are a common processed food that children reach for when they want an easy and tasty snack, but they will only leave them wanting more. "If you grow up eating junk, it is much harder later on to get away from it," Wilday says. "Essentially, our bodies become addicted to the sugar and chemicals we eat. If you learn proper eating habits at a young age, this addiction will not occur!"

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Foods containing HFCS are a major contributor to digestive problems. "This highly processed sweetener doesn't require normal digestion," Wilday said. "Instead, it is more rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and goes directly to your liver. It is thought to contribute to the growing cases of fatty liver, diabetes, and obesity."

Juice Boxes

Although many juice companies claim to make juice boxes with real fruit juice, the drinks are high in sugar and calories. Steer clear from giving your child a drink that will have them bouncing off the walls at school.  

Pre-Packaged Lunch Trays

Although these are a quick go-to, they are shockingly unhealthy. The meat, cheese, and processed crackers are filled with added salt and chemicals


There are no nutritional aspects to pudding or gelatin, and their labels list ingredients you may not be able to pronounce.  


Preventing soda consumption sets your kid off on the path to a healthy lifestyle. According to Harvard School of Public Health, people who consume one or more cans of soda a day have a 26 percent greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks. 

Spray Cheese

Although it may be convenient, spray cheese has no place in your kid's lunchbox. It contains twice the amount of salt that normal cheese does and chemicals that should not be consumed by any living person.

Sugary Fruit Snacks

Products like fruit snacks and Fruit Roll-Ups may seem healthy, but when you take a look at the nutrient breakdown, you may think otherwise. "The first ingredient is typically fruit concentrate and is void of the nutritional benefits and fibers of fruit," Wilday says. "It is essentially concentrated sugar."

Sweetened Sports Drinks

Instead of quenching your thirst, these drinks tend to make you thirstier. "Sweetened sports drinks claim to help rehydrate," explains Wilday. "Instead, you receive empty calories, high sugar content, high sodium content, harmful dyes, and over nine teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce bottle."

White Bread and Crackers

Giving your child simple carbohydrates will only give them more sugar. "Highly processed white flour-based food, also known as starch, white pasta, and white bread, are just empty calories," Wilday says. "Your body metabolizes this as sugar and it can become toxic." Opt for whole-wheat bread and crackers for a healthy and delicious alternative.