It can be tough to make a nutritious lunch your kid will actually eat that won’t cost an arm and a leg, or take you all night to prepare. With rates of childhood obesity on the rise, what your child eats every day at school can make a big difference in their health. Not to mention, getting kids to eat well now will set them up with good habits in the future.

 

While it may be tempting to throw a bag of chips, some cookies and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a lunch pail and call it a day (and sometimes that’s all that’s in the house!!), we know parents are looking for easy alternatives. 

 

With that in mind, we pulled a couple of relatively easy swaps that hopefully tick all the boxes.

 

Happy packing!

 

 Grub on this...

 

  Give up on that...

Sparkling water


Try replacing soda with calorie free, unsweetened, flavored sparkling water like La Croix or Spindrift. With lots of flavors to choose from, kiddos are sure to find something they love and will be happy to ‘ditch the dew’ for something much healthier!

Soda and other sugary drinks


Extra calories from drinks increase overall daily intake without any of the nutritional benefits. Pass on the pop at lunch and save it for special occasions only.

Popcorn (air popped!)


Get the salt and crunch of potato chips WITH the fiber of a whole grain. Beware: not all popcorn is created equal! Only munch on the air popped kind (like Skinny Pop) and leave the oily, buttery stuff for the movies.

Potato chips


We can hear Homer Simpson groaning at the thought, but chips are high in fat, calories, and sodium. If you do occasionally indulge, make sure it’s in the kettle-cooked or baked variety with as few ingredients as possible.

Bliss balls


Make a batch of these delicious, nutritious treats on the weekend to pack all week. Filled with protein, not only will they keep kids going all afternoon long, they’ll also quench that sweet craving (without the artificial sugar rush/dreaded sugar crash). We like the ones from our friends at Wholefood Simply.

Cookies


While we totally believe in moderation, not deprivation, don’t make cookies a lunch pail staple. Packaged cookies are pretty processed - made with refined sugar, refined carbs and trans fats. As Cookie Monster says, cookies are a sometimes food.  

Dried seeweed


Satisfy salty cravings with sheets of iodine and vitamin A and C packed dried seaweed. Our kids love the teriyaki flavor Trader Joe’s sells.

Pretzels


While they may be low in fat, pretzels are refined carbohydrates that are high in sodium, and pretty much nutritionally empty.

Hummus, lettuce, cucumber, tomato and cheddar on a whole wheat wrap:


Make a quick, fresh wrap that’s full of protein, fiber and lots of delicious nutrition. This will keep kids focused on the teacher and not their tummies in afternoon classes.

Fast food (pizza, cheeseburger)


It’s tempting to rely on ready to eat foods – they’re fast, require no prep work and they taste good. Try to make these options the exception rather than the rule and throw together wraps and sandwiches with fresh foods instead.

Avocado


Use it as a spread on bread for sandwiches or in tuna salad instead of mayonnaise. Not only does it taste good, it’ll add a dose of fiber, potassium, and heart healthy monounsaturated fats to their diets.

Mayonnaise


One tablespoon of mayo is 90 calories, which isn’t all that bad if you keep portions under control. But, when it comes to making tuna salad, the calories can quickly creep up. Plus, many versions are highly processed. So, stick to the heart healthy, nutrient dense avocado as an alternative.