The Non-Toxic Lunchbox – Updated!
Isabella chose baby led weaning over purees very early on and tends to eat a little of a variety of finger foods. This has meant that a simple pot was never enough to carry snacks and lunches. Having just started back at work, the food prep I’ve been doing has increased exponentially. Twice a week, I send Isabella to my parent’s house for the day with all her food ready to go- snacks, lunch and dinner. It means my parents can just focus on having fun with Isabella… I’m also a bit picky about what foods I give her and so this way everyone is happy (I make sure the dirty dozen fruits and veggies are always organic and try to give Isabella a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains and organic protein.) Having prepared the day’s healthy smorgasbord, it’s important to me that I then don’t pack it into something that will leach chemicals!
You’d hope that all lunchboxes would be made out of safe materials, however unfortunately that’s not the case… even with some that seem to say all the right ‘BPA-free’ things! Lunchboxes and lunch bags can contain chemicals that really aren’t appropriate to be making contact with food… especially for babies and children.
What are the materials we want to avoid and why?
PVC is used widely- both in bendy plastics and lunchbags. PVC contains so many phthalates they can actually make up 30% of PVC’s weight! Phthalates leach into food and drinks from containers easily because they aren’t bonded into the plastic. Phthalates are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. There are strong links between phthalates and asthma and also foetal exposure causing lowered testosterone, undescended testes and reduced sperm quality. Not something you want making contact with your child at all- let alone their lunch!
- Plastics with BPA:
BPA is in polycarbonate plastics which are used in hard plastic reusable food and drink containers. Studies have shown that BPA leaches easily into it’s surroundings. BPA is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical which means it interacts with our body’s hormones. Studies have shown an association between BPA and decreased thyroid function, altered liver function, increased allergies, inflammation, asthma and obesity.
- Plastics with BPS:
When studies came out about the negative impact of BPA, industry started using a chemical called BPS in their plastics instead. They did this without having performed studies on BPS’ safety. Now studies have been done, BPS isn’t the safe substitute they were hoping for and it also has Endocrine Disrupting Activity– maybe even more so than BPA under certain conditions.
Tritan is made by the Eastman Chemical Company. It has been marketed as a safe BPA substitute and is used widely in ‘safe’ plastic drink bottles and food containers. The company claims that it doesn’t have any endocrine disrupting activity and only has a self-funded study to prove it. This has been disputed by a rival plastics company which has carried out studies showing otherwise. It’s all ended up in the courts, but it sounds a bit suspect to me.
Another worrying issue is that the body breaks down the Tritan chemical component DMT into something called TPA. More research needs to be done, but there is one test tube study whose findings suggested that potentially TPA exposure could trigger cancer in vulnerable populations.
When Tritan was first used it was thought to be a safe plastic and so it features commonly in ‘BPA– free’ plastic water bottles and also supposedly ‘safe’ plastic lunchboxes like the Yumbox and Munchbox. In both lunchboxes, the clear inner tray is unfortunately tritan!
What materials are safe?
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel is non- reactive and doesn’t leach chemicals. It is also tough and long lasting. Look for 18/8 Stainless steel as this is the highest quality and least likely to corrode.
- Silicone: Silicone is non- reactive and doesn’t leach chemicals
- Safe Plastics: Plastics ♻2 (HDPE), ♻4 (LDPE) and ♻5 (PP) are the safest of the plastics.
I’ve been trialling the best safe lunch boxes out there and here’s what I thought:
Biome – Stainless Steel Nesting Containers. Australian Non-Toxic Awards GOLD winner 2019
Biome Stainless Steel Nesting Containers are such a great solution to meeting all your lunch container needs. The containers are made out of brushed 304 food grade stainless steel and they have flexible silicone lids. Stainless steel is a fantastic safe material for use as a food container as there are no chemicals that can migrate into your food.
With 5 sizes to choose from, including a dip size and an oversized 680ml container, you can pretty much pack anything into them you need to.
The best thing about these containers for me is the lid. Being silicone, the lid is able to form an air tight and leak-proof seal. As the lid is soft, my 4 year old can still open it easily by herself and put it back on when she takes her lunch to school. The flexible lid is also very forgiving and enables the lid to go on even when everything doesn’t fit exactly flat inside, allowing a bulge in the top. This made a huge difference to me as I sometimes pack some frozen things for my son in them or pop a whole washed apple in and containers with hard plastic tops just don’t work sometimes.
The steel in these containers is just a tiny bit thinner than some, whilst still being strong. I found this an advantage as they were noticeably lighter than some other stainless steel containers I have and yet I still had no denting issues.
Finally, what I love about these is that they pack away like little babushka dolls into the biggest container snugly, lids and all, which makes for very convenient and compact storing. These would be perfect to take away on holiday so that you have all the containers you need to carry snacks once you are there.
A highly recommended non-toxic lunchtime product which is compact, child friendly, multi-use and leak-proof.
Cheeki – Double Stacker Stainless Steel Lunchbox. Australian Non-Toxic Awards Silver winner 2019
The first thing that struck me about the Cheeki Double Stack Lunch Box is that it is so well made. It really feels like it’s made to last a lifetime. The metal is thicker than other lunchboxes, the parts fit seamlessly together and the clips are easy to use but strong. It’s beautiful quality.
Each layer of this lunchbox has a 500ml capacity and it is open inside with no dividers. Whilst I enjoy putting multiple things inside a lunch box, sometimes dividers are a little tricky to clean depending on how they are designed and can limit what you can pack into it, so I definitely don’t feel it’s a negative with this lunch box.
No completely stainless steel lunch box that I know of is leak proof and this is the same. You really need a silicone seal to make it leak proof, however by adding a seal, you add the increased chance of mould and a decreased life span. The two smaller Biome nesting containers (50ml and 100ml) fit inside this lunchbox perfectly and I’m sure other options would too if you wanted to pack a salad and bring a dressing to put on.
This lunchbox is spacious without being prohibitive. It is on the heavier side due to the thicker metal used, however it would last a child through their whole schooling. (My 4 year old can open and close the clips, so you can start them with it young! Though the capacity is a bit too big for her just yet.) I love that there are no cracks for bacteria to hide and this is super easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
I highly recommend this beautiful quality, robust, practical non-toxic lunch box.
Good To Go – Two Level Stainless Steel Container With Clips. Australian Non-Toxic Awards Bronze winner 2019.
The Good To Go Two Level Stainless Steel Container is a stylish, compact and user friendly lunchbox. There is so much I really like about this lunchbox. It is light and sturdy and I love how the top level is divided in two and then the lower level is one open container. It makes it so much easier to pack lunches and snacks separately and reduces the need for wrapping food. I also like the easy to use rolling clips which snap into place and the lovely brushed stainless steel finish which looks stylish and better hides scratches.
This lunchbox is probably a bit tricky for a really young child to use. I found I had to properly line up the top container over the bottom one and press down a bit to get it to stay and then put on the clips as the top container pops out of the bottom quite easily. Like all stainless steel lunchboxes, this container is not leak proof. The divided areas in the top section are also not leak proof between each other.
This is a perfect lunchbox for an adult to take to work. It is compact to fit into a bag, is practical in its compartments and is stylish. It’s going to be my work lunch box from now on and is just perfect for my needs. I love it. A great non-toxic choice.
Onya – Reusable Sandwich Wrap. Australian Non-Toxic Awards 2019 People’s Choice winner.
The Onya Sandwich Wrap is a wonderful idea and makes packing lunches no matter what the size, shape or contents a breeze. These replace single use zip lock plastic bags, paper bags or a lunchbox. They are so easy to use, they look great and are also easy to wipe clean. The Sandwich Wrap uses Velcro to securely fasten and has a clear name window for school lunches.
I love that Onya products are made using all recycled materials and are all recyclable at the end of their lives.
With this lunch wrap the outer lining is recycled PET bottles which is a safe plastic. The inner lining of this lunch wrap is made from PEVA which is classified as being completely food safe, however there are studies which do raise questions about its complete non-toxic status. I use this Sandwich wrap with a large beeswax wrap inside so that food isn’t actually touching the lining. I find it fantastic for keeping contents together and also for protecting things from getting squashed and unravelling. It makes a great lunch box alternative and can wrap up almost anything whilst being soft enough to squeeze into a backpack.
This is a really useful, adaptable food container which I keep finding more and more uses for.
Klean Kanteen – Insulated Food Canister. Australian Non-Toxic Awards 2019 Finalist
Klean Kanteen’s Insulated Food Canister is just the right size for taking a hot lunch with you on the go – whether it be a soup to work with you in winter or a hot meal on a hike. Built to last with a stylish brushed stainess steel exterior and double wall vacuum insulation, this can keep things hot for 8 hours or cold for 8 hours which is amazing! To get to those extreme numbers though, I did find it necessary to rinse the inside with boiling water or put the canister in the fridge before filling. So lovely to have a hot meal all ready to go hours after it was prepared! I also used this with some ice cold watermelon on a hot day and it had been absolutely hours since I’d packed it and yet it was still so cold and refreshing.
This food canister has quite a wide lid. Little adult hands can open it, but I think it could be pretty tough for a child. The inside of the lid is a safe plastic, which isn’t my favourite material for being in contact with hot liquids, but hasn’t been shown to be harmful either. The company used to make the lids with stainless steel on the inside, though apparently the insulation wasn’t as good which is a pity, but it seems it was a necessary compromise for such a high performance. I love that the inside insulation of this lid is recycled cardboard instead of foam, which is a much more eco-friendly option. The canister is super easy to clean and also includes a tag area to write on it with a grease pencil.
If you are wanting to take a hot lunch to work, this canister is a stylish and very effective non-toxic option.
This is a lunchbox which will last a lifetime. It’s really well made, 100% stainless steel and super spacious (960ml). It isn’t just a toddler lunchbox- it can be used for school and is also big enough for adults to take to work for lunch.
I use this lunchbox if I’m packing food for Isabella for a whole day or if I’m going out for lunch and need food for both Isabella and I. I’ve also used it for picnics to bring along snacks to share. The main compartment is big enough a large sandwich / salad or another main meal. The other sections are great for chopped fruit and veggies or protein/ a roll etc.
Will last a lifetime, spacious and tough. Dishwasher safe. 100% Plastic free. 18/8 Stainless Steel.
The compartments aren’t completely sealed off from each other and so if you pack anything with too much liquid, it could make it through to the other sections (so there’s a slight risk of a soggy sandwich if you pack the wrong things into the other compartments!) I’ve seen some people get around this by using little silicone patty cases in the snack section or otherwise you can get the Lunchbots’ Dips containers which fits into the lunchbox perfectly for anything that could leak. The lid is tight fitting, but not leakproof.
This is a set of three stainless steel circular pots with safe plastic LDPE lids. They are really useful sizes- 148ml, 236ml and 473ml. The smallest is perfect for little snacks- cherry tomato quarters/ sultanas/ blueberries. I’ve even managed to fit in a little pikelet stack. The middle one is great for fruit/corn cakes/ a peanut butter sandwich cut up etc and the bigger one could hold some stew/ frittata or bigger bits of fruit like melon. These are leak proof and easy to clean. They are dishwasher safe except for the tops, which are better handwashed to make sure they don’t leach any chemicals.
Super convenient sizes. Leak proof. 18/8 Stainless Steel.
Even though it is a safe plastic, I recommend the lids should be handwashed.
This safe plastic polypropylene lunchbox is spacious and has lots of compartments allowing for creativity. The main body is divided into one large compartment and two snack sized compartments. There are also two separate leak-proof tubs for dips.
The larger compartment (1.1L) can hold a sandwich lying flat or otherwise a sandwich cut into squares in addition to the two dipping containers. The snack sized compartments (262ml) can hold chopped fruit or carrot/ cucumber sticks with the dipping containers (177ml and 77ml) say holding yogurt for the chopped fruit to be dipped into and hummus for the veggie sticks.
It holds a lot of food and has lots of separate compartments (which do not leak between each compartment) so you can include a whole variety of contents. It’s big enough for an adult’s lunch too if you packed it well. The lid is easy to remove and put back on, so a toddler could do it. It has a carry handle.
While it says dishwasher safe, it’s a plastic and I’d prefer to not put it in the dishwasher and to hand wash it. It’s a smooth plastic and so is easy to clean. The whole body of the lunchbox isn’t completely leak- proof (though the compartments won’t leak between one another) but the dipping tubs are leak-proof.
- Weanmeister Adora Bowls Australian Non-Toxic Awards Silver & People’s Choice winner. Baby Mealtime category. 2019(See panel reviews here)
These bowls are made from silicone and have a really clever top which you press down and it forms a suction seal. I’ve been using these daily for a long time now. They are just so convenient and were all I used in the early solids days. Having a 250 ml capacity, I use them regularly to carry single serves of stew, cucumber sticks, chopped berries, steamed pear slices etc. for Isabella.
Easy to use. Form a great leak- proof seal if you treat them gently. A convenient capacity for single meals. Dishwasher safe. Silicone is non- porous and therefore bacteria resistant and easy to keep clean.
These can leak if they get squished from the side in the nappy bag. Small capacity. A little awkward in shape if you’re carrying too many or trying to fit them in an insulated lunchbag. Defrosting anything in them that wasn’t frozen in them to begin with can be difficult because of the round shape. I get around this by freezing meals in them and tipping them out into a glass container in the freezer when frozen. To defrost, I then simply put them back into the Adora bowl again and into the fridge!
The safest cutlery is made from either silver, stainless Steel, silicone, safe plastic or wood/ bamboo.
This cute and convenient fork and spoon is made from a single piece of bamboo. It’s nice to have the option of a fork as well as just a spoon, but it’s blunt enough that I’m not paranoid about Isabella playing with it. It’s well made and is smooth and comes in a little mesh bag for travel.
I use one of my grandmother’s silver teaspoons for a lot of Isabella’s meals. Nothing beats a silver spoon; silver has antibacterial properties and then there’s the lovely sentimental factor. I don’t however feel too safe leaving the house with it, so the bamboo spork is my out of home go-to!
I hope this helps you to choose a safe lunchbox! Now all I need to do is get some interesting lunchbox ingredient ideas!