10 Alternatives to Healthier School Lunch Staples

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.Drazil Kids Tea

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!).

Healthy lunch alternative - blueberry muffins over cupcakes

What other lunch staple swaps have you successfully made? Leave us a comment to share your ideas.

By, Jen

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