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How to Pack Healthier Snacks for School Lunches

Healthy Living
August 17, 2012

By Danielle Miller, GalTime.com

Here's how to make healthier school lunches this year.
Here's how to make healthier school lunches this year.

packing healthier school lunches

Summer is winding down and back-to-school season is just around the corner, which means that it's time to shop for school supplies, clothes, and snack foods.

As it turns out, that old adage of you are what you eat is truer now than ever. It's especially true when it comes to what we feed our children.

"Healthy snacks for children should be a top priority for parents," advises clinical nutritionist and health expert Stella Metsovas. "Parents run the risk of normalizing unhealthy eating patterns in children if snacks are high in sugars and low in nutrients; the result is a child who becomes a 'picky eater.'"

Metsovas goes on to emphasize the importance of some essential nutrients that she feels should be present in the snack food we provide for our children.

"It's imperative to look at healthy fats in a child's diet. Most snacks are filled with processed carbohydrates and carry little, if any, quality fatty acids and protein," she advises.

Ideally, the solution to this snacking dilemma would be pretty simple…just be sure to provide children with nutritional snacks, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of snacks like cookies, candy, and ice cream…easy, right?

Related: Beating the Morning Scramble

Unfortunately, kids tend to really like cookies, candy, and ice cream...while fruits and veggies are not as popular (to say the least).

Keeping in mind that taste is a factor when selecting snacks for our little ones, Metsovas shares her recommendations for children's snack items available at grocery stores and shares some food choices we may want to keep out of kids' lunch bags all together.

  • Peanut butter sandwiches are the quintessential snack food. Make the typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich healthier by using sprouted bread, one-ingredient peanut butter (i.e., roasted peanuts should be the only ingredient), and fresh berries-layer all over the peanut butter on the bread, topped with berries.

  • Cheese sticks are easy to take on the go and contain an even balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Look for cheese that isn't heavily processed with any additional flavors or artificial colors-minimal ingredients are best. *Fruit paired with a piece of cheese is one of my go-to recommendations for parents.

Related: A Nutritious School Lunch for LESS!

  • Pita chips paired with fresh guacamole, salsa, or hummus would be considered a healthy selection.

  • Yogurt could be considered the superstar of snacks for children-especially when paired with fresh fruit, nuts, and honey. And remember, not all yogurts are created the same! Choose a plain yogurt (Greek Style is my favorite).

  • Most granola bars would be considered high in processed carbohydrates and very high in sugar. Basically, you could be giving your children a pseudo-candy bar.

  • Dried fruit and trail mix can be very tricky as far as choosing a healthy selection. Most trail mix is filled with processed ingredients-especially sugars-that could rival most desserts. Create your own trail mix by adding nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and shredded coconut.

Related: Make Your Own High Energy Bars with Dried Cranberries

  • Popcorn isn't a food that I would consider a healthy snack for children or adults because most people can't consume this snack plain, instead, they'll add unhealthy proportions of sodium, cheese, sugars, etc. Even plain popcorn has no real nutritional value.

  • Jell-O contains no real nutrients-making this snack virtually un-nutritious. But if you pair the Jell-O with fresh fruit and crumbled nuts on top, the Jell-O now becomes nutritious.

  • Fun vegetables: Try cutting vegetables in unique shapes for children. Studies have proven that kids actually love vegetables!

Metsovas further recommends steering clear of packaged-processed foods-especially those that use media characters for marketing purposes.

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