A mom’s dilemma – packing school lunches that are healthy and that our kids will want to eat. Here are some simple “switcheroo” ideas that pack great taste with added nutrition.
1. Use Whole-Wheat over White: There are many tasty options available in the whole-wheat variety that a simple swap will add mega nutrition to your child’s lunch. We’re not just talking about swapping out white bread for whole-wheat, but also feel free to substitute plain old sandwich bread with a whole-wheat tortilla or whole-wheat waffle.
2. Make Your Own Boxed Lunch over Pre-packaged Varieties: I make my own boxed lunch and skip the pre-packaged ones from the grocery store. I roll up organic deli meat or slice leftover grilled chicken into bite size chunks. Sometimes I swap out the meat and instead include diced cheeses, a hard-boiled egg, hummus, or almond butter.
3. Substitute Almond Butter over Peanut Butter: We get it – PB is a protein staple for many kids. When choosing PB, look for brands with no or low sugar. A great, healthy alternative is almond butter. The taste difference is subtle and the protein and nutrient punch is comparable.
4. Use Greek Yogurt over Mayonnaise: I sometimes make tuna or egg salad sandwiches or tortilla rollups for my kids. While mayo is an easy go-to binder for making egg and tuna salad, a great, less caloric substitute is Greek yogurt. The taste difference is subtle but the nutrient punch is worth the swap.
5. Substitute Chocolate Pudding over Cookies: I always pack a little sweet treat in the lunchbox. While cookies can be okay in moderation, substitute a pudding cup instead. It will give them a boost of calcium.
6. Choose Fresh Fruit over Fruit Cups: Fruit cups are easy to grab and pack, but they’re often loaded with sugar and corn syrup – not so good for you after all! Instead, include fresh fruit or carrot sticks (with a dip). Easy peasy!
7. Pop Popcorn over Chips: Fried potato chips can give your child their salty craving fix, but you know as well as I do that it’s not good for them. I swap chips for freshly popped popcorn seasoned with various spices – cinnamon-sugar, smoked paprika-salt, olive oil-pepper, etc. Experiment to see what your child likes.
8. Serve Hummus over Ranch Dressing: When did Ranch dressing become a childhood staple? An alternative is fiber-rich hummus or protein-packed almond butter. I’ve also used plain yogurt with a touch of vanilla, brown sugar or honey as a great fruit, veggie or pretzel dip!
9. Substitute Caffeine Free Tea-Infused Drink Box over Juice Box: The juice box can add 100 or more calories to your child’s meal. Instead of saying no juice boxes, how about providing Drazil Kids Tea as a healthy but tasty option? My son loves Yummy Berry flavored tea and my daughter prefers Tropical Burst.
10. Bake Homemade Muffins over Packaged Cupcakes: Packaged cupcakes are loaded with sugar and preservatives – so, you guessed it, I make my own. Add banana, applesauce, canned pumpkin, fresh blueberries and other good nutrients to your standard muffin mix for a delicious, homemade treat. Sometimes I sneak in a few chocolate chips or put a little frosting on top to make it kid-friendly (kids love it and you know what’s inside in healthier!).
What other lunch staple swaps have you successfully made? Leave us a comment to share your ideas.