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Don't Ever Pack These 10 Foods in Your Kid's Lunch

Don't Ever Pack These 10 Foods in Your Kid's Lunch


School time is upon us and it’s time for parents to head to the grocery store and load up the pantry for school lunches. While many of us will reach for the quick and easy premade meals, it’s time to consider the detrimental effects these foods can have on our children.

Click here to see 10 Foods You Should Never Pack In Your Kid's Lunch (Slideshow)

Many products are advertised as “100% turkey” and “whole grain,” when in reality, the deli meats are loaded with preservatives and the breads, crackers and pizza crusts are pumped with partially hydrogenated oils. Sodium is also a large issue, as one pack of Lunchables, for instance, contains approximately 1,000 milligrams of sodium; to put that in context, your child should be consuming around 1,200 milligrams…per day! Most of these convenient foods are loaded preservatives, sodium, saturated fat, and other harmful additives; parents need to be on the lookout for healthier and more natural lunch options for their children. Registered dietician Christina Moreno encourages packing balanced meals consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, and vegetables.

Now, this is easier said than done. Most parents have a busy schedule: soccer practice, a full-time job, and maybe even a few littler youngsters home with them during the day. Don’t fret. There are healthy, options you can give your kids without worrying about additives and unnatural ingredients. Instead of white bread, opt for whole grain. Try replacing soda and juices with water. Go for fresh sliced fruits or organic yogurt in place of chips and sugary snacks. Not only does sugar push your youngsters into a midday lull, but it also increases their chance of heart disease, cancer, and other deadly conditions down the line.

Whether you’re making simple changes or redoing the refrigerator completely, you’ll feel better knowing your child is consuming nourishing, healthy foods that increase concentration and energy.

Premade Sandwiches


One word: preservatives. Pumped with additives, sugar, and sodium, premade sandwiches like Crustables are definitely worth avoiding at all costs. Opt for healthy leftovers or homemade sandwiches instead.

Toaster Pastries


Loaded with unnecessary sugar and calories, toaster pastries are another nutritionally empty snack choice. Skip these sweet treats for a healthier option, like a homemade granola bar.

Click here for more foods you should never pack for your kids


Ultimate Guide to School Lunch Bento Boxes (best boxes + accessories and healthy recipes!)

This Ultimate Guide to School Lunch Bento Boxes is filled with a guide on the best bento boxes and accessories as well as healthy and delicious school lunch recipes. Everything you need to start packing the best school lunches ever!

A couple of weeks ago, Ellie was in an all day summer space camp and as I went to make her a packed bento lunch on the first day of camp, I froze. I didn&rsquot know what to do!

I had completely forgotten how to pack a healthy bento lunch!

In 6 weeks, all of my bento packing skills were gone!

Didn&rsquot I even write a book about bento lunches, yep I sure did!

So I pulled out our favorite bento boxes, dug deep into my memory, cleared all of our summer snack foods out of the way and finally got to work on some healthy summer bento lunches.

Once I started, I realized how overwhelming packing lunches can be!! That wasn&rsquot good. Packing lunches is my happy place, I love love love packing healthy and colorful lunches for my girls but it does take some time to get into the swing of it.

So while I have posted a ton of recipes, inspiration and thoughts on bento boxes, I decided to pull it all together into one info packed post for you <&mdash&mdash&mdash yourwelcome:)

Below you will find my favorite bento boxes and bento accessories, my go-to school lunch recipes and tons of bento inspiration! If you have any more questions, hit me up in the comments section.

Here&rsquos to a happy and yummy new school year!


Don't Pack Foods That Are Not Allowed

altrendo images / Getty Images

Know the school rules and follow them, even if you don't agree. Your child is the one who will bear the consequences (and possibly go hungry when served an "alternative" lunch) if you send items that aren't allowed.

Avoid whatever the school doesn't allow, which might include peanut butter and nut products, candy, gummy/fruit snacks, soda, juice, and chips.


Is There Still Hope for 7, 8, 9, and 10+ Year Old Picky Eaters?

I think the same core principles apply to older picky eaters though, they just need tweaked a little, because it’s entirely possible for your child to begin to accept new and different foods at ANY age.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a total myth that older kids can’t change their picky eating ways. It’s more than possible and the tips you’ll learn here will be a great first step!


Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Skip the bread this week and roll up some mozzarella sticks around slices of ham! Pair with celery sticks with nut (or seed) butter, and add some other snacks to round out the meal. Annie's has a great variety of kid-size bag snacks you can easily throw into a bento box lunch.

RELATED: Easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.


17 Kid-Approved Vegan Lunchbox Meals and Snacks for Back to School

School lunch plays a critical roll in public education. Not only does it fuel one’s body and mind to excel academically, lunch is a social occasion. Students bond and barter over lunch, and what one eats often sparks conversations at the lunch table.

Unfortunately for growing children’s health, most mainstream snacks and processed foods are loaded with preservatives, colorings, saturated fat, artificial additives, animal products, and added sugar. Sure, within the unwritten capitalism rules of the cafeteria, these items trade well, but so do unique and “rare” foods that look and smell appetizing.

Send your child to school with vegan fuel that nourishes their mind and their social status. Make a shopping list and be sure to include ingredients for these 17 kid-approved vegan lunchbox meals. And don’t forget the cool lunchbox!

17 Kid-Approved Vegan Lunchbox Meals and Snacks for Back to School

1. Sweet and Spicy Tortilla Chips

Make homemade Doritos, without the artificial flavorings. Pack some hummus or nondairy sour cream and the kids will adore the special treat.

2. Krispy Treats

Give your kid the ultimate bartering lunch item – rice crispy treats. These vegan options have less sugar than the pre-packaged varieties, and they’re also free from preservatives. Get your kid involved and make a batch together.

3. Peanut Butter Jelly Tip Protein Bars

Level up your kid’s soggy lunchbox PB & J by turning it into the best protein bar they’ll ever eat.

4. Kale and Sweet Potato Chips

Veggies are so much more craveable in chip form.

5. Grilled Tempeh Sandwich

Goodbye, sad school lunch. These colorful sandwiches beat any cafeteria option under the heat lamp.

6. Apple Pecan Pizza

As a general rule, pizza anything is a hit with kids. Send them to school with this wholesome dessert to ensure they stay full and focused.

7. Spicy Stuffed Pitta

Don’t be afraid to introduce your kid to some spice. Children’s palates typically crave bold flavors, and introducing new spices will make them adventurous eaters in the future.

8. Pasta Salad

The trick: tell them it’s pasta, but load up on the veggies. The light dressing will get any kid to eat their vegetables.

9. Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Tuna salad cannot be depended upon to keep for hours, especially on warmer days. Send them to school with a lunch that will taste just as fresh as when you packed it with this protein-packed, chickpea-based sandwich made with eggless mayo.

10. Vegan Sushi

Sushi is often thought of as an “adult” food, but it’s actually very kid-friendly. Think of it as veggie-based finger food. Get your kid involved and pretend to be vegan sushi chefs together.

11. Healthy Trail Mix

Most store-bought trail mixes contain tons of chocolate and excess sugar. Put the “healthy” back in trail mix with this homemade version.

12. Banana Chia Pudding With Mango Lime Puree

Upgrade the conventional chocolate pudding pack to a homemade jar of chia seed pudding. Other kids will be in awe of the fact that you can actually make pudding, instead of just buying it at the store.

13. Vegan, Gluten-Free, Raw Museli Bars

It’s lunchtime, crunch time! Wanting to pack a delicious, nutty granola bar in your child’s lunch? Reduce packaging waste and costs by making these scrumptious bars at home. These bars also contain vital nutrients and no added sugar, unlike most bars on the market.

14. Banana Crumb Muffins

Although these muffins may be intended for a naturally sweet finish to lunch, they likely won’t last until then. If your kid has access to their lunchbox, the muffin will be gone by snack time.

15. Bounty Coconut Snack Balls

These snack balls are easy and rather therapeutic to make – perfect to take the edge off after chauffering your children around. They are also filled with quality protein to maintain those youthful energy levels at after-school sport practice, while moms and dads cheer from the sidelines.

16. Overnight Oats

Kids love breakfast for dinner, so why not breakfast for lunch? Overnight oats are a great make-ahead meal for busy parents, and given a refrigerated lunchbox, it can even be made in the morning and be ready to eat come lunchtime. Winning!

17. Beet Hummus

Remeber those crazy-colored ketchups of the 󈨞s and early 2000s? Kids went crazy for them. Pack a brightly-colored condiment that’s actually good for them with this natural, whole food beet hummus.


Kid’s Top 10 Favorite Foods

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Kid’s can be fussy eaters especially when it comes to eating the good stuff full of vitamins and proteins. But place one of these kid’s favorite foods in front of them and you’ll see the plates wiped clean in a jiffy.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Probably one of the most popular k id’s favorite foods is the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In moderation, this makes for a good choice for a meal or after school snack. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and monounsaturated fats. It is better to opt for natural or reduced fat peanut butter with multigrain bread and a 100 percent fruit jelly to cut down on unnecessary sugar.

What kid doesn’t love good old American mac and cheese? It is quick and warm and a great option to fill small tummies. A cup of macaroni and cheese made from a packaged mix has around 260 calories. When you can, try to choose a whole-wheat option but adding fun shaped pasta will make it more fun for kids to enjoy. Using low-fat cheese or mozzarella can also help make this child’s favorite more nutritious.

Kid’s favorite foods always include pizza, with its doughy, crispy crust, gooey cheese, saucy toppings. A single slice of thin crust medium pizza has around 215 calories. To make it healthier, try serving thin crust and add at least one vegetable to the topping. You could even let your kids try making their own pizzas!

Made popular by fast food chains, hamburgers are a good source of protein but high on fat, sodium and calories. If you serve burgers in your home regularly, try switching to turkey burgers once in a while to cut down on the fat content. You can also add finely chopped veggies to your burgers to make them a little more nutritious. Don’t forget the toppings! Veggies like tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and pickles are a great way to work in that extra serving of veggies to your child’s favorite dish.

A hot dog makes for a great dinner or lunch treat. One hot dog made of processed meat has about 150 calories and a little over 10 grams of fat. Look for hot dogs that are 100% beef or maybe try hot dogs made of turkey for a lower fat option. Skip the fries and add some fruit, coleslaw or vegetables as sides. These are great ways to compromise with your little one so they are getting the foods they love and the nutrition they need.

Another kid’s favorite food is chicken tenders or nuggets. They make for great finger food that is easy to eat and a great source of protein. Though most chicken nuggets are fried making them full of calories and fat, you can opt to make your own healthier version at home and bake them or pan fry them in coconut oil. Add sides such as fresh or steamed veggies and brown rice for a well-rounded meal.

Enjoyed by kids and adults alike on a cold day is a bowl of warm chicken noodle soup. This soup usually includes chicken, noodles, celery, carrots and onions in a rich broth. Soups are sometimes high in sodium, so a good idea is to have your children drink a glass of water along with their meal. Make sure the chicken chunks are big to help add to the protein intake or add other sources of protein on the side like yogurt or peanut butter on crackers with the soup.

The cheese makes for a good source of protein and calcium, but can sometimes be high in calories. Opt for a low-fat cheese and butter spread to keep calories under control. Using whole-grain or whole-wheat bread to add fiber to the meal as well. Instead of serving potato chips, choose a healthier chip like whole-grain Sun Chips for a little added crunch.

Loved by just about every child in Americ is this time-honored classic spaghetti. This tomato-based meal makes for a good source of lycopene and potassium. The tomato base is mostly vegetables and is lower in fat and calories than Alfredo. One can puree extra vegetable like green peppers into the sauce for added nutrition your kids will never notice. Adding lean ground beef and whole-wheat paste can also make it healthier. For an added twist, try using ground turkey instead of beef.

Tacos are fun for kids, mainly because they taste great and kids can get a little messy while eating them and not get in trouble with Mom and Dad! Tacos are generally served with cheese, meat, lettuce, and tomatoes wrapped in a hard or soft shell. The hard shells are fun to eat and add a little crunch. Soft tortillas are also a great option. You may want to opt for a corn or whole-wheat tortilla to up the nutritional value. Choose turkey or lean ground beef that will be lower on fat content. Guacamole has monounsaturated fats but is high in calories so should be used in moderation. It’s best to choose a low-fat sour cream as well.

Kid’s favorite foods aren’t usually healthy but some small twists and changes here and there to infuse them with nutrients and make them healthier is not impossible. It’s a great way for kids to get what they want and for parents to serve them what they need.


The main event

  • Make a little extra of dinner:Mac and cheese or tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad make a filling and nutritious lunch. Kids can also customise their own mini omelettes for a fun, fork-free lunch.
  • Pour boiling water over dried noodles when making your morning tea. Ten minutes later they're ready to toss with some veg for an easy noodle salad to take to school.
  • * Hummus is packed with protein and fibre and is very cost-efficient when you make it yourself. Make a large batch and pack it into serving pots for kids to eat with carrot sticks or pitta chips .
  • Wraps make sandwiches into interesting shapes. Choose a wholemeal variety for more fibre and nutrients and pack it with their favourite fillings.

How to pack fruit so it doesn’t get totally smushed

I am a huge fan of stone fruit, bananas and strawberries, but it is always such a hassle to carry them in my lunch bag. And it’s hard for kids too. When they come back home with uneaten fruit in their lunchboxes (argh!) it&rsquos usually because they don&rsquot want to eat it. It’s more likely because by lunchtime, that fruit is a gooey mess. Bananas turn super-brown in a matter of hours, strawberries become mushy and whole apples are always bruised.

Luckily for you, we have the perfect tricks so your fruits won&rsquot get mushed and squashed in transport. We even threw in some tricks that will help prevent browning. Try out these tricks and you and your kids will come home with empty lunchboxes every afternoon.

Trick No. 1: Wrap fruit in cloth

You can take stone fruit or any round fruit like apples, peaches or pears and wrap them in a dry cloth. Make sure to tie the top of the cloth with a knot so your fruit does not go rolling around in your lunch bag and you&rsquore all set. When lunchtime rolls around, you&rsquoll have unbruised and delicious fruit.

Trick No. 2: Save your bananas from premature browning

I love bananas, but taking them to work is always a pain. By the time lunchtime swings around and I go in my bag for my banana, it is way browner than it was when I originally left the house. A way to save your bananas is to add plastic wrap to the stem. This will prevent it from getting ripe way too quickly. Throw it in your or your kid’s lunchbox and go on about your day. You can also cut bananas in half (with the skin on) freeze them and put the in an airtight dish before you leave the house.

Trick No. 3: Keep apple slices crisp

I like apple slices with almond butter, and it’s so much easier to cut them at home with a real knife than the plastic ones at work. But the problem with cutting apples beforehand is that they end up getting brown and gross. Here’s what to do: Soak your slices in a solution of two cups of cold water and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt for five minutes. Then drain and pack in an airtight container and you&rsquore good to go. Now you&rsquoll have fresh, crisp fruit for lunch or an afternoon snack.

Trick No. 4: Freeze your fruit in an airtight bag

Grab a few apricots, peaches or stone fruits that are a few days from being ripe, slice and freeze. It makes packing fruit so much easier. Just place five or six slices in a zip-close bag, being careful to press out all the extra air before freezing overnight. By the time you’re ready to eat your fruit the next day, it won&rsquot be mush and it&rsquoll have the perfect texture.

Trick No. 5: Keep strawberries fresh

Ever put your cut strawberries into a Tupperware container and by the time you’re ready to eat them, they’re all mushy? It&rsquos happened to the best of us. The best way to transport strawberries is to leave them washed and whole. This way, the strawberry can stay fresh longer.

Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows


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