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Healthy Lunch Box Swaps that are Good for Your Kids

The week of August 10 is Healthy Back to School Week at DietsInReview.com.

Even at my age, I can’t help but get the back to school butterflies. I have always loved this time of year. I no longer have a need for fresh packs of pencils, new backpacks or new notebooks, but that doesn’t stop me from wandering down the aisles.sack lunch

One thing that I don’t miss about back to school are the lunches. That food is still just as terrible as it was 20 years ago. I have a little girl who I mentor, and I’m just shocked every time I walk in to that cafeteria at the trays full of Crustables, corn dogs and football stadium nachos. Thankfully people like Chef Ann and millions of moms across the country are taking steps to ensure our kids are eating more filling, more nutritious foods to power them through their days.

If you are one of those moms responsible for packing school lunches, then consider these easy lunch box swaps this school year.

Containers. For starters, swap the brown bag for a reusable lunch container. It’s more environmentally sound and you don’t have to keep paying for new bags. Plus, the insulated bags let you send more fresh foods. Then, fill it with these healthier food choices:

Bread. Swap the white for wheat. Brands like Nature’s Own use whole grains and most varieties have no high fructose corn syrup and little or no added sugar.

healthy lunch box swapsJuice. Swap the sugar-filled juice box for a refillable thermos of 100% fruit juice. Again, it’s good for going green, is more economical, and less sugar is better for their little bodies.

Fruit
. Swap fruit snacks for real fruit. The real stuff tastes better, is more filling and isn’t full of artificial colors, flavors and other ingredients. Stick to produce with a longer shelf life like grapes, apples, and oranges to save money, or just make sure your kids will eat all the bananas and berries before they go bad.

Snacks
. Swap chips for crackers. If your kids have to have that crunch with their sandwich, opt for a whole grain baked cracker. Baked whole grain Goldfish or Pepperidge Farm’s Baked Naturals are tasty choices.

PBJs
. Swap peanut butter for nut butters. Almond, pecan and cashew are popular varieties that are perfect for kids with allergies. Watch for low-sodium, low-sugar varieties on these healthy-fat nuts. Also, watch the sugar content on your jams and jellies.

Vegetables
. Swap none for some! There aren’t many of these in lunch boxes. Add a slice of tomato and spinach leaves to a turkey sandwich, some carrot sticks and hummus for crunching or even a fresh salsa for dipping their crackers.

Dessert
. Swap snack cakes for pudding cups. They are still kids afterall! Snack cakes and other store-bought, processed pastries are full of some of the worst food ingredients. Jell-O pudding cups come in surprisingly delicious sugar-free varieties. Also consider Greek yogurt with fruit, like Chobani.

August 10th, 2009