Ten months of packing school lunches is a daunting task for any family. Keeping lunches healthy and offering a variety of foods with a busy schedule can be even more intimidating, especially if you have a picky eater in your family.
There are plenty of ready-made lunch and snack options available, but while they’re convenient and sometimes budget friendly, many are loaded with extra sugar, salt and fats that aren’t the best option to fuel kids through their school days.
But don’t despair. Here are four common school lunch pitfalls, and some healthy alternatives, that you can pack in your child’s lunch:
Instead of potato chips, try kale chips, veggie chips or lightly-salted pretzels.
Store-bought potato chips tend to be laced with unsaturated fat, oil and excess salt. By switching to a lower fat alternative, you can cut the fat and oil while trying a variety of flavors. You can even make the chips with your child. In my experience, my kids are more likely to eat their veggies when they help prepare them!
Instead of sodas and sports drinks, try homemade smoothies.
The excess sugar in sodas and sport drinks can lead to an afternoon crash. A smoothie can offer a lot of sweetness, while being high in fiber and loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants. For kids who don’t crave something sweet to drink, you can always pack water or 1% milk.
Instead of fruit snacks, try real fruit.
While fruit snacks are bright in colors and can be in the shape of your kid’s favorite cartoon character, they lack the vitamins and nutrition of real fruit. Some picky eaters may not take so quickly to having an apple in their lunch, so you can try alternatives like raisins or baked apple chips to ease them into healthier fruit options.
Instead of cookies and muffins, try granola bars.
Whether homemade or store-bought, granola offers a sweet treat that has more nutrition than the sugar in cookies or muffins. Making granola bars yourself is a great opportunity to include your children and let them pick healthy ingredients they enjoys. If you buy from the store, look for options with less than 10 grams of sugar and at least two grams of fiber.
Whether you use store-bought or homemade items in your children’s lunch, packing lunches is also an opportunity to help your children start making healthy decisions about their meals. Let your children pick the snacks in their lunch to begin teaching them which foods are healthy and ensure that they actually eat what you pack together.
What healthy snacks do you pack in your child’s lunch? Don’t have kids? We’d still love to see your healthy lunch ideas too! Share a comment or recipe below.