10 Healthy Alternatives To Kid-Friendly Lunch Foods and Snacks
It’s no secret that kids can be picky eaters, especially when it comes to healthier foods. Many children prefer foods that are fried, salty, and sweet. Children’s food preferences can also be influenced by what their peers are eating, and what advertisements they see in the media. Unfortunately, most of what they see is foods that are higher in sugar, heart-damaging saturated fats, and sodium. These foods are also convenient and easy to pack and store, which makes it tempting to throw it in your child’s lunchbox. However, there are ways you can pack your child healthier versions of their favorite school lunch and snack foods without sacrificing taste or flavor!
Here are 10 healthy alternatives to kid-friendly lunch foods and snacks.
- 1) Chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets are no doubt a childhood favorite, but school chicken nuggets are typically fried in unhealthy oil, and high in salt, preservatives, and heart-damaging fats. Make your own version the night before chicken nugget day at school, and get the kids involved! Use white meat chicken, and bake it with whole wheat bread crumbs.
- 2) Potato chips. Potato chips are a staple in many children’s lunch bags, but like chicken nuggets, many potato chips are high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and artificial dyes and flavors. Get the family together to bake homemade potato chips, and use colorful veggies to show children that healthy eating can be fun! Some good vegetables to use include white potatoes, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets.
- 3) Pizza and candy lunch combinations. Pre-packaged pizza that children can put together themselves are very popular at the lunch table. Send your child to school with a healthier version that is lower in sodium and saturated fat, but still allows them the fun of putting it together! To do this, provide a whole-wheat English muffin, low-sodium pizza sauce, and reduced fat pizza cheese. Instead of candy, provide them a mixed fruit cup for dessert.
- 4) Yogurt. While yogurt marketed towards adults is typically healthy, yogurt for kids is often high in sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and can lack probiotics, the gut-friendly bacteria that is a staple of yogurt. Make adult yogurt kid-friendly by adding in fresh or defrosted frozen fruit, a teaspoon of dark chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of low-sugar granola!
- 5) Chewy granola bars. Chewy-style granola bars are quick, easy, and often considered a healthy snack for children. While some brands of granola bars can be healthy, others can have the same nutritional value of a candy bar, but disguised as granola. Look for a granola bar with simple ingredients of nuts, seeds, and a sweetener such as honey or dates. Or, get the family together and make homemade granola bars.
- 6) Fruit snacks. Packaged fruit snacks and roll-ups are often tossed in lunchboxes to help children get a serving of fruit, but unfortunately these snacks are closer to gummi candy than actual fruit. Fruit snacks may contain a serving of fruit, but they also contain added sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and lack the fiber and nutrients that real fruit has. Instead of fruit snacks, healthy alternatives can be dehydrated or dried fruit such as fruit leathers, dried apricots, or dried apple slices, or of course, simple fresh fruit!
- 7) No-crust packaged sandwiches. No-crust packaged sandwiches are pre-made, pre-frozen, and only require defrosting in a lunchbox. They may help you save on time, but to save on unnecessary artificial colors, flavors, and hydrogenated oils, skip the pre-packaged pb&j and make your own! An added bonus is that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a good introduction for children to start packing their own lunch. Use whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and a lower-sugar jam or jelly.
- 8) Pre-packaged crackers with cheese-dip. Pre-packaged crackers with cheese-dip are a popular snack for children, but like many other pre-packaged foods, they are high in sodium and heart-damaging fat, and low in fiber. Pack your child a healthier version using low-fat cheese (a good source of calcium and protein), and whole grain baked crackers.
- 9) Beef jerky and meat sticks. Jerky and meat sticks are an easy child-friendly snack, but many brands are high in sodium, saturated fat, and different processed meats. Provide your kids with a similar snack that is high in protein but lower in sodium and fat by giving them baked chicken or turkey breast slices.
- 10) Sweetened beverages. Sweetened beverages such as soda, lemonade, iced tea, and flavored milks are popular in children’s lunch boxes to help prevent thirst. However, sugar-sweetened beverages often provide no nutritional content and can increase your child’s risk of tooth decay and other diseases. And while lemonades, iced teas, and flavored milks may seem like a healthier version of soda, they often have the same amount of sugar. Skip the sugary beverages and give your child water, regular milk, or 100% juice. If your child doesn’t like the taste of plain water, add a few fresh fruit slices such as lemon or mint.
As you and your child are packing school lunches and snacks, it is important to remember that most of the food most days should include healthy alternatives, but it is also okay once in a while to let your child have their favorite kid food.
Have a great school year, one that is full of healthy, nutritious school lunches!
Written by Alyssa Simon
Written on Aug 15, 2015
Last updated on Oct 31, 2015