Students offer lunchbox survival tips

If you ever find yourself staring blankly at your child’s lunchbox, wondering what on earth to pack that he’ll actually eat, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Students say packing lunch is tricky, mostly because of the transformation process: food that starts off fresh and yummy turns into something entirely different by the time lunch rolls around 3 and 4 hours later.

So here’s some wise advice from the student experts:

No bananas. Please.

Horror stories abound about bananas that started out ripe and yellow, but by lunch had turned into a pulpy, rotten mess, some¬times coating all the other food in a sticky banana paste. Yum.

This is because kids don’t just carry their lunchboxes — they swing them in circles, squash them into their lockers, and playfully whack each other with them.

Heavier objects such as water bottles and thermoses crash into other foods like bumper cars at the fair. So whatever is packed inside that can be squished, will be squished. This, according to the students, includes most fruit: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, even whole oranges.

Double-protect food.

Avoid the squish factor and help lunch stay fresh by wrapping everything — from sandwiches to grapes — in paper towels or plastic and sealing it in containers, because the biggest problem by far for the lunchbox crowd is mushy food.

Lettuce goes limp, cheese turns to goo, and it just tastes bad.

Don’t put condiments on bread (again with the mush factor.)

Instead, spread a small amount of mayo or mustard between slices of meat so the bread stays fresh.

Variety is good, and sweets are even better.

Kids say a teensy, weensy, small treat at the end — meaning “all the non-healthy things in the world” — is like a smile and a hug.

Other good advice:

Instead of bananas, pack banana chips.

Lemon juice on cut up fruit such as apples or pears keeps it fresh, and doesn’t taste like lemon at all.

Toasted bagels are a favorite. Let them cool, then put cream cheese in all kinds of flavors inside and wrap it for freshness.

Another big hit: mac and cheese, kept hot inside a thermos. Students say hot meals ranging from soup to chicken and dumplings are great for lunch.

And in the “I never want that again” category: Tuna packets and butter sandwiches top the list.

And broccoli. One kid in 20 actually liked broccoli, but one thing they all agreed on: if you send veggies, don’t forget the dipping sauce!

Meet the experts:

Students at Nativity on James Island and Divine Redeemer in Hanahan offered some dos and don’ts for packing lunch.

Starting with K-5 and going up to eighth grade, Nativity students include Christina, Carol Ann, Andrew, Daniel, Lotus, Logan, Michael, Louis and Melah. At Divine Redeemer, Sydney Charles, Eva Jones, and Emma and Lyla Darnell gave their advice.