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Meal Ideas

Healthy Lunchbox Snacks

Healthy Lunchbox Snacks

Many packaged snacks for children are full of refined flour, added sugars, artificial ingredients, and high salt. But that doesn’t mean you need to eliminate snacks altogether. Here’s a list of easy swaps for popular lunchbox snacks that will help your child eat more real food, fruits, veggies, and essential nutrients in a delicious way. 


SWAP OUT: POTATO CHIPS OR VEGGIE STRAWS

Potato chips are empty calories loaded in trans fats and one serving can be loaded with as much sugar equal to a can of soda. It’s a common misconception that veggie straws are healthy, but sometimes they don’t actually contain any vegetables at all. 

SWAP IN: POPCORN

 Air-popped popcorn contains far less calories than potato chips, offers a good serving of fiber, and is lower in sodium. 

SWAP IN: SPROUTED TORTILLA CHIPS

Options that are made of non-GMO corn, beans, or sprouted whole grains  are filled with more fiber, protein, and vitamins.



SWAP OUT: CHOCOLATE CANDY BARS

Consuming too much refined sugars sets your kids up for a sugar crash, ultimately affecting their mood and school performance.

SWAP IN: CHOCOLATE COVERED NUTS

Chocolate in moderation can be a good midday pick-me-up. Pairing it with nuts, made of healthy fats and protein, gives you a better boost of energy.




SWAP OUT: FRUIT GUMMIES

Though the ingredients of these snacks might include “real” fruit puree, there’s also corn syrup, gelatin, modified corn starch, and added colors in there too. 

SWAP IN: REAL FRUIT

Fruit kebabs are a fun way to serve a variety of fruit. Use cookie cutters to cut fruit into shapes too!

SWAP IN: REAL FRUIT LEATHER

Fruit leather is naturally sweet without added sugars. There are many options made with just real fruit and no preservatives or you can even make your own! Here’s how: 

1. Preheat the oven to 170°F.

2. Add fruit  of choice to a food processor and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice (and honey if desired).

3. Spread the mixture onto lined baking sheets and spread it out evenly using a rubber spatula until completely flat, about ⅛ - ¼ inch thick.

4. Bake the fruit roll ups for 4-6 hours, until the center isn’t tacky. Be careful the edges do not get too dry.

5. Use a pizza cutter or clean scissors to cut long strips then roll up.


SWAP OUT: CEREAL & GRANOLA BARS

Granola bars are glorified cookies. Filled with oats, dried fruits, and nuts they seem healthy,  but they also contain high amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, negating their “good” ingredients. 

SWAP IN: GRANOLA

Not all granola is actually healthier than the bar, but if you read the labels carefully you can find brands that are made primarily from whole grains and limited amounts of added sugar. Better yet, making your own is the best option for maximizing nutrition and controlling the sugar content Here’s a basic formula you can follow: 

 

Ingredients (makes 5 cups) 

1/2 cup neutral oil, such as sunflower or grapeseed

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup nuts, chopped

1 cup raisins or other dried fruit, chopped

 

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the oil, honey, cinnamon, and salt.

3. Add the oats and almonds and stir to coat.

4. Spread the oats out onto the prepared baking sheet and press it down.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

6. Remove from the oven, add the fruit, press down, and cool

7. Break up granola and store in an airtight container.


SWAP OUT: STORE BOUGHT APPLESAUCE

Many brands contain high fructose corn syrup that cancel out the goodness that apple sauce should be! 

SWAP IN: HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

While you can find some better brands without the additives, making your own tastes immensely better. You can even add in a sweeter fruit instead of honey or maple syrup to naturally sweeten it up. Strawberries, mangoes, and pears are all great options.


Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

3 pounds apples, about 6 apples  (Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, Pink Lady, or Cortland)

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (optional) 

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks (optional) 


Directions

1. Combine apples, water, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot.

2. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium/low, cover with lid, and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

3. Cook until the apples are completely soft.

4. Remove cinnamon sticks. Mash with a potato masher or blend for a smoother sauce. 

 

SWAP OUT: BOTTLED RANCH

Ranch is a miracle in getting kids to eat their vegetables. But it can also be packed with ingredients that are less than good for you: ​​vegetable oil, natural flavors, sugar, modified food starch, MSG. 

SWAP IN: HUMMUS 

Hummus is made from nutrient dense chickpeas, providing healthy fats, protein, and fiber. 

SWAP IN: HOMEMADE RANCH

Making your own ranch allows you to use better-for you ingredients without compromising flavor.


Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

3/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup plain kefir or Greek yogurt

1/2 lemon juiced, or 1 lemon juiced (based on taste preference)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper



SWAP OUT:  PUDDING OR JELLO

By replacing your kiddo’s pudding cup, you’ll eliminate added sugars and fat, while still satisfying their sweet tooth.

SWAP IN: PLAIN YOGURT PARFAIT

Fruit flavored yogurts are packed with sugar, so try sweetening it up with honey and fresh fruit instead.

SWAP IN: CHIA PUDDING

Chia seeds contain generous amounts of fiber and protein as well as brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Ingredients (makes 1 serving)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Pinch of salt

½ cup milk of choice

2 tablespoons chia seeds


Directions

1. Whisk together cocoa powder, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.

2. Slowly pour milk in while whisking.

3. Add chia seeds and whisk once more to combine. Cover and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight.

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