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Healthy Food Alternatives to Pack for School Lunches

In some ways, packing a kid’s school lunch stems from cooking and baking healthier at home. Many healthy dinners can easily provide healthy leftover main dishes for school lunches. Pasta dishes, heated in the morning and placed in an eco-thermos can remain hot until lunch time. Many school lunch rooms offer students a microwave for reheating lunch items. When making healthier dinners at home, avoid high sodium canned soups, mixes and other unhealthy processed foods. Consider cooking with whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, fresh vegetables and no-salt sauces. Most items that are premade, or prepackaged, will most likely contain unhealthy preservatives and high amounts of sodium. The following tips provide more ideas for healthier food options.

Sandwich Alternatives

Skip the bread and choose a healthier whole wheat soft tortilla instead. Wrap up fresh vegetables in place of high sodium processed lunch meats. Bake whole chickens or turkeys the night prior, cut into strips or bite size pieces, and add to the wraps. Be careful in buying roasted whole chickens, as they are pumped with flavorings that contain high amounts of sodium. Choose an all-natural peanut butter that does not contain additional oils or added sodium. Use home canned jellies and jams, made with fresh fruits or organic juices instead of store bought jams and jellies. Homemade hummus can be used along with many avocado spreads, in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches.

Fruit

Apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, oranges, nectarines, plums, bananas, and cut pieces of melons, are all good examples of healthy lunch packings. Raisins are also good, but contain a high amount of sugar. Make homemade applesauce when apples are in season during the fall. Take advantage of what fresh fruit is in season.

Vegetables

Homemade salsa is simple to make. Mix up a batch using fresh, or home grown, vegetables and send it with organic blue chips. Most salsa recipes use fresh garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes – all packed with natural vitamins and minerals. Send fresh organic celery sticks to dip in homemade salsa. Homemade hummus can be eaten with fresh vegetables or homemade wheat thins. Organic or home grown sugar snap peas pack easily in school lunches. Learn to make refrigerator pickles, with organic or home grown cucumbers, and send pickle wedges for a tasty treat.

Drinks

Consider a low sugar beverage or an organic juice and send it in a safe thermos. Send water in a reusable water bottle. Also, chocolate milk contains a higher amount of sodium than white milk. Consider an organic milk to avoid harmful added hormones. The night prior to school, brew iced tea with green tea bags. Sweeten the brewed tea with a healthy sugar alternative, or use a small amount of organic sugar.

Snacks

Skip the chips, crackers and other processed foods you typically find in the snack aisles of most grocery stores. Instead, visit the dairy department for healthier cheese sticks or the frozen food section for frozen yogurt. Homemade snacks, such as Zucchini-Banana Squares, offer a heart healthy, and delicious snack. Make baked homemade snacks healthier by substituting applesauce for oil, in recipes. Pack pop corn in place of chips. Fruit by itself can be a “snack” for school lunches. Learn to make granola at home to replace store bought granola bars. In the fall, when pumpkins are being carved, save the seeds, roast them and pack in your child’s lunch.

Packing a healthier lunch for kids may require you to make more lunch items homemade. By making snacks, sides and main meals at home, with healthy or natural foods, you will provide a much healthier lunch for your child.