Photo: Kids Eating Lunch in School

by Manjari Fergusson

It’s back to school time again! Packing lunches and snacks for your kids can be a chore, but it’s the best way to ensure that what they’re eating is the healthiest and most satisfying. Plusm, with proper budgeting, it saves money and your child doesn’t have to buy snacks and lunch every day.

School lunches typically involve meat and refined flour, saturated fats and sugar. Sending your kids to school with a healthy meal will help them have the energy and ability to concentrate in class as well as reduce their risk of becoming overweight.

Aim to include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy products such as yogurt or low-fat cheese, and plant-protein (i.e. nut butter, legumes, veggie meats, tofu) in their lunch. To help make it easier, we’ve put together a list of healthy school snack and lunch ideas.

  • The most typical, and simple, lunch is a sandwich. But instead of using white bread, try a whole grain loaf. Use our substitute meats in the chill section and Vegenaise (vegan mayo) spread.

    More sandwich options:

    • Peanut butter with fruit juice-sweetened jelly (instead of conventional jelly loaded with high fructose corn syrup).
    • Cucumber and cream cheese.
    • Hummus (garbanzo dip) and tomato is another yummy choice.
    • Veggie Slice cheese & vegetarian ham.
    • Mozzarella cheese with lettuce and tomatoes.
    • Avocado and nutritional yeast.
    • Almond butter with apple banana slices on top.
  • Try to incorporate a fruit with every lunch, making sure to wash it thoroughly. Papayas, bananas and oranges are in season year round, but rambutan, starfruit and tangerines are just coming into season now. Plus, fruit makes the BEST snack. Couple it with a protein such as peanut butter or cheese and it keeps kids satiated longer and helps balance their blood sugar!
  • Add a bottle of drinking water. Water instead of juice is not only hydrating and nourishing but is a non-calorie drink which will help towards reducing the risk of becoming overweight. Getting children used to drinking water instead of sugary-drinks will be one of the best habits you can teach your child!
  • A fun way to make an apple more appealing is to half it, core it, spread peanut butter (or almond butter or whatever alternative you want) and sprinkle cereal on top (Down to Earth has a variety of cereals and granola).
  • Instead of a juice box laden with sugar, try packing coconut water instead. O.N.E. brand is sold in different flavors at DTE in small 8.5 oz packages, perfect for a lunchbox.
  • Natural cheese crackers! Goldfish crackers, or other cheese crackers, are consistently popular with kids but have you ever taken a look at the nutritional info? No good! Luckily, Annie’s makes a natural version, which is a better alternative for your child.
  • For a complete meal idea: Cadia brand string cheese with a handful of whole wheat crackers (Down to Earth has so many brands to choose from!), a cup of broccoli and cauliflower with dressing and a slice of banana bread will make a tasty and fulfilling lunch without much prep time.
  • Eggless Egg Salad is a great low-cholesterol alternative to egg salad. Can be served with whole grain crackers or used in a sandwich with lettuce.
  • Go Greek! Try pita bread with grilled bell pepper and carrots, plus fake meat or tofu. Pair it with Greek yogurt topped with fruit, along with animal crackers.
  • All-natural fruit leather is a much healthier alternative to candy fruit-roll ups and counts as a fruit serving!
  • A yummy snack to put in with lunch is a mixture of sesame sticks and dried fruit.
  • Raw carrot sticks, cucumber, snap peas, broccoli or tomatoes can all be easily added to a lunch box along with a dip or dressing, with little preparation time.
  • Down to Earth has a huge variety of granola bars. Try EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Bars, Barbara’s Crunch Organic Granola Bars, Kashi TLC Chewy Granola Bars, Annie’s Organic Granola Bars and Cascadian Farms Granola Bars.
  • The bulk section in our stores is also a great resource for healthy school snacks and extras for lunch. Yogurt-covered pretzels, dried fruit, sesame sticks, dried vegetable chips and different trail mixes can be found for a good price.
  • What about leftovers? Wholesome, leftover dinners make great lunches and save lots of time.

In other words, making school lunches doesn’t have to be a huge task. Going the unhealthy route may seem “easier” but in reality, making healthier choices next time you shop for food is much easier than you may think.