5 Healthy Lunch Box Snacks That Won’t Get Traded Away

By: Kevin P. Allen

It's tough to get your child to eat healthy, but it's easier if you consistently offer great-tasting options.
It's tough to get your child to eat healthy, but it's easier if you consistently offer great-tasting options.
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Winning the battle of the lunch boxes is no easy task. Not only are you, as a parent, competing with the parents of your child's classmates for the most appealing and appetizing snacks, you're competing under a dramatically different set of rules.

Some of those other moms and dads aren't concerned with (or they're not informed about) nutrition and the, literally, growing obesity epidemic. When you consider that food companies in the United States spend more than $1.5 billion on marketing aimed at kids under the age of 12, it's no wonder your task seems daunting [source: Harris and Graff]. The fact that the foods they're marketing are overwhelmingly low in nutritional value and high in calories could make you want to throw in the proverbial towel [source: Harris and Graff]. But your kids are just too important.

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No, you don't have the marketing budget or the trendy gimmicks, but you've got some distinct advantages. You live with those children every day, so you can teach them the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the downfalls of regularly eating junk. Plus, you can send them out with a variety of foods that they know from experience are tasty, filling and maybe even fun.

These foods won't make the other kids at the lunch table gag, scream or pinch their noses closed. Instead, the snacks on the following pages will turn heads in a way that makes classmates say, "I wish my mom would've packed that in my lunch."

5: Apple Sauce Packets

They go by a variety of different names that highlight how you can squeeze, crush, slurp or gulp them. Whatever their name, apple sauce packets have become a popular treat with kids. In fact, there are many flavors available besides just apple. There's apple-banana, apple-strawberry and even surprisingly flavorful options like apple-carrot.

Here's the trick. You, as a health-conscience parent, will have to read the labels carefully to ensure the packets you're including aren't full of added sugars. Such options really do exist [source: Fabricant]. There are even apple sauce packets that are gluten-free and fortified with vitamins.

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Yes, you could just put some of your homemade apple sauce in a sealable cup but, c'mon mom -- that'd be so embarrassing.

4: Popcorn

Popcorn is the Cinderella story of the healthy snack world. Long associated with parties and movie theaters where nutrition isn't a priority, the high-fiber food is finally being recognized for its ability to guard against cancer and heart disease. That's right, researchers have discovered that popcorn is high in antioxidants [source: Weir]. Naturally, if you drown it in butter and coat it with salt, you've gotten carried away -- there comes a point when the nutritional value isn't any better than a candied apple.

The healthiest way to cook popcorn is with an air popper. Heavily processed oils aren't recommended for popping as they contribute to high cholesterol.

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3: Grapes

If you could create a colorful kid's snack that was about the size of a gum ball, packed with sweet juice and loads of vitamins and minerals, you'd have a long line of venture capitalists waiting to take your recipe to market. But, of course, there isn't a recipe for grapes -- they're plucked from a vine and ready to eat. There's nothing to tweak, no unpleasantness to hide and no need to convince children to eat them.

Among the benefits of grapes: They boost energy, fight infections and sharpen the brain. That's on top of the potassium, iron, calcium and vitamins C and A they provide [source: Organic Facts]. It's hard to go wrong with this ready-made snack.

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2: Clementines

Clementines, like grapes, are a parent's dream -- offering high nutrition without requiring any preparation. They appeal to children mainly because of their taste but also because of the novelty factor. Clementine's look likes oranges but they're smaller and much easier to peel. Even a toddler can easy pull them apart without calling on the lunchroom monitor for assistance.

These fruits from the tangerine family provide fiber, a very low calories-to-nutrition ratio, and the vitamins necessary to repair the scratches and bruises your kid got on the playground. Keep in mind that clementine's don't stay fresh for long. They'll need to be eaten within a week if refrigerated and within a day or two if left out [source: Live Better America]. Making them disappear, however, shouldn't be a problem.

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1: Yogurt Tubes

Not unlike apple pouches, yogurt tubes are one of those snacks that are made cool by their container. Your child can squeeze the cold, sweet and nutritious yogurt into his mouth and get back to more important things like discussing international politics. Right.

There are some key things to look for as you consider the yogurt tube options in your local grocery store. Beware of added sugars and high-fat offerings. Look for the fewest number of ingredients with natural and organic components. A little squeeze of yogurt can give your child the extra energy and ability to concentrate that he needs to get through the school day [source: Saltiel].

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It's a tough task to get your child to eat healthy, but if you consistently give him great tasting options, he may just carry those habits longer than he carries a lunch box.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Fabricant, Florence. "This Apple Treat Goes A Long Way." The New York Times. Jan. 13, 2009. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/dining/14apple.html
  • Furore, Kathleen. "Summer Arrivals." Produce Retailer. June 1, 2011. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.produceretailer.com/produce-retailer-research/summer_arrivals_123000663.html
  • Harris, Jennifer L., PhD, MBA and Samantha K. Graff, JD. "Protecting Children From Harmful Food Marketing." September 2001. (Aug. 7, 2012) http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/sep/10_0272.htm
  • Live Better America. "Clementines." (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.livebetteramerica.com/food-101/ingredients/clementines
  • Organic Facts. "Health Benefits of Grapes." (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-grapes.html
  • Saltiel, Jennifer. "Healthy Snacks." Kaboose. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://recipes.slides.kaboose.com/128-healthy-snacks
  • Vowles, Amy. "10 Great Ways To Cook With Coconut Oil." She Knows Chef Mom. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://chefmom.sheknows.com/articles/822719/10-great-ways-to-cook-with-coconut-oil
  • Weir, Sarah. B. "Popcorn Contains More Antioxidants Than Fruits And Vegetables: The New Super Snack." March 26, 2012. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/popcorn-contains-more-antioxidants-fruits-vegetables-super-snack-205100980.html

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