For those of us who have children going back to school this month, making sure that they have nutritious lunches and snacks in their lunch bags can be a bit of a challenge. Most of the prepackaged foods on the grocery shelves have little to offer in the way of good nutrition (high in sugar, white flour, hydrogenated fats, food coloring, and other additives, etc.), so it really is worth it to find the time to make your own healthy alternatives. Have your children come up with suggestions for nutritious foods that they like and if they’re old enough, get them to help with baking healthy snacks and making their own lunches. If you must resort to prepackaged foods, try to choose those made with whole grains and without hydrogenated fats and lots of sugar.
Here are a few suggestions for healthy snacks and lunches (see Eating Alive II for recipes and additional suggestions):
- Fruit in season for the area in which you live.
- Homemade baked goods such as muffins, zucchini bread, scones, oatmeal raisin cookies, etc. These should be made without hydrogenated fats and with very little, if any, sugar (use butter or coconut butter, unsweetened applesauce, stevia/ChicolinTM, etc.)
- Peanut butter or other smooth nut butter and raisins on celery sticks.
- Homemade trail mix: try pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, cashews, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.
- Low-fat, plain yogurt and fruit. If your children don’t like plain yogurt, try sweetening it with a little bit of vanilla extract or some stevia/ChicolinTM.
- Cinnamon toast: toasted whole-grain bread spread with a small amount of butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. Sprinkle with a little bit of stevia/ChicolinTM instead of white sugar, if they like it sweeter (for an after-school snack).
- Veggies and dip—for example: carrot sticks or baby carrots, cherry or grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, strips of red pepper, slices of jicama, etc. with dip, such as Tatziki, Bean Dip, Hummus, or Yogurt Herb Dip.
- Whole-grain bagels with nut butter, Yogurt Cheese, or cream cheese.
- Crackers with reduced-fat cheese and pickles.
- Soup or chili (use a thermos to keep it hot).
- Leftover homemade pizza.
- Bean Dip Burritos or Chicken Burritos.
- Sandwich made with whole-grain bread, lettuce, and cooked chicken or turkey, tuna, salmon, egg, or leftover roast beef.
- Send ingredients so that your kids can build their own wraps at school using whole-wheat or sprouted-wheat tortillas. Fill small plastic containers with foods like shredded lettuce, grated reduced-fat cheese, diced tomatoes, cucumber and/or red pepper slices, sliced black olives, and any of the above sandwich filling suggestions.