As most of you know by now, I’m a mamma with three little ones in school full time. And as most of you might also know if you’ve read any of my previous blog entries, I actually DO wake up in the middle of the night in a slight panic thinking about what they ate that day.Was it healthy? Are they getting all the nutrients they need? And what am I going to pack in their lunch box the next day?
Yes, I really did lose sleep over questions like these. Until recently!
In my last post, I tackled the whole “to juice box or not to juice box” issue. But now I’m moving onwards and upwards…
Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!
What you pack in a lunch box for a snack is probably more important than that sandwich you’re hoping they’ll finish. If they are anything like my kids, they usually come home with a sandwich still in it’s baggie, and maybe (if I’m lucky) it has about 4 or 5 bites taken out of it. But the one thing that’s almost always gone is the SNACKS!
We live in a world today where childhood obesity has become an epidemic. Now, I’m not going to lecture you on whether your children are getting enough exercise and are eating a perfectly balanced meal every day, because let’s face it, this is the real world and we are real moms (and dads). Our job is just to make sure that we provide for them to the best of our ability to keep them relatively healthy, but we aren’t perfect lunch box packing robots. We want them to eat and sometimes junk food becomes the easy option.
One of the biggest challenges is that our bodies naturally crave sugar, salt and fat. So while that bag of Cheetos might seem like the easy snack because they’ll eat it, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Instead of succumbing to the popular although unhealthy snack, make the promise to yourself and your child though that you’re going to go against the grain. You don’t even have to be unpopular! There are some HEALTHY & FANTASTIC options out there that it turns out will give them the same satisfaction as that unhealthy option!
So I set off on the hunt for some great, tasty and relatively healthy snacks for my kiddos… and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Here are my picks – actually, let me re-phrase that… here are my KIDS picks!!!! We can put the healthy in front of them, but if they don’t touch it and it comes back home in the lunch box exactly the same as it left in the morning, it means nothing. So here’s my tried and true list of healthy snacks for your kid’s lunch box!
THE KID APPROVED SNACK LIST
One of the first things I did when I was in the supermarket looking for healthy snacks was go to the only obvious section – the organic aisle! And there it was… an entire shelf filled with all things KASHI. Now don’t freak out! Before you start saying to yourself, my kid isn’t gonna eat fiber cereal and bland granola bars, just hear me out. First of all, they aren’t bland at all. They have so much flavor and KASHI offers such a great range of healthy products that have no additives, food colorings, high fructose corn syrup. Best of all, they’re certified USDA Organic.
We got a little creative in our house with one of their cereals. Cereal is NOT just for breakfast anymore, and don’t fool yourself into thinking it is! KASHI makes a Cinnamon Harvest cereal that’s almost like a frosted mini wheat, only without the ungodly amount of sugar. So I bought these great little re-useable tupperwares and basically made a vanilla yogurt parfait. I layer the squares and yogurt and it’s so good – my son loves it! I pack a spoon and it’s still cold in the morning when he goes out for his first recess break. (You know from my last blog on lunchbox drinks that I usually freeze a bottle of water and throw it in his lunch box in the morning to serve as an ice pack). It’s a great way to introduce yogurt into your kid’s diet too! If they don’t like the Cinnamon Harvest Squares- they also have another one called Berry Blossoms that tastes amazing with strawberry yogurt, especially with an added handful of Craisins. If I say that ALL of my kids are asking for this in their lunch box right now, you have to know it’s good. They’re pretty picky!
The other KASHI product my kids are loving right now is the Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola Bars. Yes, your kids are going to eat dark chocolate and they aren’t even gonna know it! Most chocolate/peanut granola bars are overloaded with sugars but these manage to find the perfect balance between the sweet and salty- which my kids love. I cut them into small squares and then put them in the freezer so they become super chewy and almost like a yummy peanut brittle chocolate. They are also filled with fiber. Who knew that when we became parents, we’d worry so much about whether or not our kids… well ya know- went number two… and what they ate. Well this covers both of those bases! Each bar has 4 grams of fiber in it and 4 grams of protein in it. Good stuff.
CHIPS – the big bag of NOTHING but empty calories that fills the lunch box
This was one of our biggest dilemmas, since my kids were and still are big chip snackers. The saltier the better! And the more ridiculous the flavor.. for example, blazin’ hot ranch pepper cheese chips. Yeah… um, no thank you! They love the crunch and the endless variety of artificial flavors. I don’t love the fat. I don’t love the cholesterol, and I certainly don’t love the artificial flavors. Finding something that would take the place of a chip, but still be healthy, was not going to be an easy sell.
But there is such a replacement out there. It’s from Pirate Brands and it’s called PIRATES BOOTY! Yes, I said it… BOOTY! This is actually an all-natural and healthy alternative to chips. We are ADDICTED, and when I say “we,” I think I mean ME!
Toss out the Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos, cause I’ve found the swap! I can’t even begin to tell you how good they are. We have two favorites- the new SMART PUFFS which is basically an air-popped baked type of “Cheeto”. It’s got the perfect amount of salt and seasoning and you don’t feel like you just ate a bag of fried grease. They are all natural, which means that there’s no “monosodium-I-don’t-know-what.” Plus, they are gluten and trans fat free, so for those kids that have any dietary restrictions to dairy, you’re in the clear and there’s absolutely zero preservatives. Now that’s the snack I’m talkin’ about! They also have the original which is called Pirate’s Booty and it’s pretty similar to a popcorn style baked puff that’s made with aged white cheddar. Good flavor, great crunch, good snacking! Not to be cheesy but… it says on the bag, don’t “snackrifice” your health… I couldn’t agree more!
Now, let’s talk about fruit. One of the super toughies, in terms of a snack. I know that if I put some plain sliced strawberries or even a cut-up apple in my son’s lunch box, I can almost guarantee he’ll toss it! He’s just not a big fruit eater. So here’s a huge all natural fruit snack alert – and I promise, it’s gonna change your kid’s life in terms of wanting to eat fruit – it’s from a company called Schwan’s and it’s called Fruit To Go Cups! Stored in the freezer, these are a delicious blend of peaches, pineapple and raspberries in white grape juice. So you can put them in the lunch box frozen, and by the time they get to them at snack time or lunch, they’ve thawed out a little bit and it’s almost like an all-fruit Italian style icee. My kids call them fruit slushees. Refreshing and not super-sweet, they have REAL pieces of of fruit in them. YUM YUM!
Another great fruit snack that is 100% fruit with no preservatives or added sugar is freeze dried Fruit Crisps from Brothers-All-Natural. There’s literally a zillion flavors and I found it was a really good way to introduce certain fruits to my little ones, especially the ones they wouldn’t normally try in the non-freeze dried form. There’s Apple, Asian Pear, Mandarin Orange (yes, they’ve managed to successfully freeze dry an orange!) Strawberry Banana and Peaches. But the one they loved that I didn’t expect was the Pineapple Crisps. My kids tell me they taste like little pieces of chewy candy! They have 2 of the daily suggested fruit servings and once again, if you have a child with dietary restrictions, these are Peanut/Tree Nut Free, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan and Kosher! Great fruit snack swap!
I’m a mom just like you. I know we are busy and hectic and it’s not easy to always think of variety when it comes to our kids lunch boxes. We don’t always have the time to bust out the cookie cutter and craft perfect little square sandwiches for our kids… we need some help!
For me, these snack alternatives have really been some snack savers, especially since my kids are finicky eaters who’d rather chow down on a can of Pringles than some sliced apples any day of the week. Maybe you can’t always get your kids to snack healthy, but you sure can point them in the right direction!
What are your favorite healthy snacks? Share them in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.