10 Healthy Snacks for Kids At School

10 Healthy Snacks for Kids At School

As a mom of two little ones, I often feel like I spend just as much time planning healthy meals for them as I do snacks. One kid has a morning snack and the other has an afternoon snack. One will eat just about anything I pack, while the other often comes home with her snack untouched. Whether yours are in daycare, preschool or elementary school, packing snacks is an everyday chore and chances are, finding healthy snacks for kids is something that’s top of mind for you too.

Although we can all aspire to those creative, healthy snack ideas on Pinterest, most of us are too time-strapped to make that a reality. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to Goldfish or other processed snacks.

There are healthy snacks for kids that will satisfy their hunger, help them stay focused at school, and give them plenty of energy until they get home. Even better— they only take minutes to pull together. Here are 10 ideas to try.

1. VEGETABLES

If you’ve tried to pack vegetables as a snack for school, chances are, they came right back home.

Like I said, I have the same issue with one of my daughters but I continue to offer them. Why? Because the The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says snacks are not only an opportunity to support your child’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Besides, most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day to begin with so offering snacks is a great way to take advantage of their hunger and get these foods into their diets.

Snacks also help kids learn what they like to eat—and what they don’t—and can encourage them to become adventurous eaters.

Some school-friendly veggie options include:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus (cooked)
  • Baby carrots
  • Belgian endive (add some feta cheese or a peanut butter)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans (cooked)
  • Jicama
  • Parsnip “fries”
  • Purred pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Zucchini “sticks”

2. FRUITS

Fruit is usually kid-friendly and among some of the best healthy snacks for kids at school.

Fresh or frozen, you can pack washed, whole fruit, or pack cut-up fruit in individual glass containers.

Some of the best fruits to pack for school include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Mandarines
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon


3. POPCORN

Popcorn is a great snack option at school because it’s so easy to pack in a lunch box or snack bag.

Unliked refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber which stave off hunger and keep blood sugar levels steady.

You can make your own popcorn at home or buy it pre-portioned, but read labels carefully to avoid large amounts of sodium and trans fat as well as artificial ingredients. 

SkinnyPop is one of my favorite brands because it’s non-GMO, trans-fat free and low in sodium.

4. HUMMUS

When you’re looking for healthy snacks for kids, hummus is a great choice.

A 100-gram serving has 6 grams of fiber and nearly 8 grams of protein, plus the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

If your child has a sesame allergy, you can make your own (here’s a recipe).

Hummus pairs well with whole grain crackers, mini pitas, or vegetables like sliced peppers, celery and carrots.

5. GUACAMOLE

Avocado is one of the best foods you can feed your kids. With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, they’ll get a ton of nutrition without a lot of calories.

Avocado is also an excellent source of healthy fats and a good source of fiber. They also have lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids or plant pigments, found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Homemade guacamole is delicious and has a great texture but if you decide to buy it off the shelf, read labels because many store-bought options have artificial ingredients.

Pair guacamole with whole grain tortilla chips, cut-up veggies or serve it alone— either way, it’s sure to be a snack your kids will love.

6. UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE

Cups or squeezable pouches of unsweetened applesauce can make for an easy and healthy snack any time of day.

7. CHEESE

High in protein and a good source of calcium, cheese is one of the best healthy snacks for kids at school.

Cheese is easy enough alone, but if you’re looking to add more nutrition and variety, pair it with fruit.

Some yummy combinations to try include:

  • Tomatoes and mozzarella
  • Figs and brie
  • Watermelon and feta
  • Pear and blue cheese
  • Apple and cheddar

7. YOGURT

Yogurt is usually a kid-favorite and an easy school snack.

High in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, yogurt is also rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics.

When you look for yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, and a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract for extra flavor.

8. TRAIL MIX

Nuts and seeds are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats which makes trail mix an easy and healthy snack for school.

Since many store-bought trail mixes are filled with salty nuts, loads of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and candy however, be choosy when looking at the different options.

If you want to have control of the ingredients, make your own: pick the nuts and seeds and use unsweetened dried fruit. If you’re going to add chocolate, stick to dark chocolate, which has antioxidants and just the right amount of sweetness without too much sugar.

9. HEALTHY SNACK BARS

Stocking your pantry with healthy snack bars can ensure you always have something on hand for school. 

When buying a healthy snack bar, look for those that use whole food ingredients, have a good amount of protein and fiber, and are low in sugar and sodium.

Also, consider whether your kid is eating it with lunch or as a snack, because depending on the calories, it can easily turn into another meal.

KIND and Larabar are two of my favorites but you can also look for recipes and make your own.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY SNACK BAR FOR KIDS

10. EDAMAME

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are also high in calcium and make for a healthy school snack.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

What are your favorite healthy snacks for kids at school? Let me know in the comments!

11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

This time of year, we as moms are doing everything in our power to prevent our kids from getting sick. From teaching them how to wash their hands—with soap and water— to giving them vitamin C and elderberry syrup and everything in between, we’ve got an arsenal of tactics and lots of hope. In addition to all your prevention strategies, you’ve probably thought about your kids diet and wondered if there are foods that fight colds and the flu too.

Today, that’s what we’re talking about, but first… why do kids get sick so much?

WHY IS MY CHILD ALWAYS SICK WITH A COLD?

If you have little ones, there’s no denying that they’re sick all the time. In fact, it’s common for children to get 8 to 10 colds a year before they turn 2

The reason kids get sick so often is because they’re in close contact with other kids at daycare, school and at mommy and me programs, and they’re swapping germs all day as they share toys, books, etc.

Another reason kids get sick so much is that they simply haven’t built up the immunity yet to fight off infections, and they’re indoors more and have less exposure to vitamin D which boosts the immune system.

MY CHILD IS CONSTANTLY SICK

Last year when my kids started the school year, it seemed like they were sick every few weeks. Colds, fevers and by January, we all had the flu—and yes, we all had the flu shot.

This year, I thought I had it all under control. I thought:

They’re older and presumably have stronger immune systems.

They know the importance of hand washing, especially at school where the kids sneeze and cough on each other and eat lunch after recess—yuck!

They eat healthy, take vitamins, probiotics and probiotic-rich foods.

They get plenty of sleep and I do my best to make sure they’re active.

My older daughter came down with a slight cold but that was it.

I thought we had this year covered, until last week, that is.

As I was heading out for a walk to take a break from work, the school called.

My younger daughter had a low-grade fever and a headache. I thought it was probably your run of the mill virus, but when she woke up the next morning with a 103 fever and feeling totally run down, we headed to the doctor and discovered she had the flu. Again. Despite having the flu shot, again.

10 FOODS THAT FIGHT COLDS AND THE FLU

Teaching kids how to wash their hands properly is the best way to prevent the spread of infection, but there are also foods that fight colds and the flu, may help ease your child’s symptoms and strengthen his immune system.

1. Chicken soup

When you were a kid, you know there was nothing better than a bowl of chicken soup when you were sick and as it turns out, this ancient remedy is one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.

According to a well-known study published in 2000 in the journal CHEST, eating chicken soup can ease symptoms of a cold. Researchers found that the movement of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends the body against infection, was reduced. Therefore, the study suggests chicken soup may be anti-inflammatory, ease symptoms and shorten the duration of infections.

Although homemade chicken soup is fresher and more delicious, if you’re buying it in the store, always read labels because many versions—even those that the store makes—are high in sodium.

2. Apples

There’s truth to the old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away especially for kids who get sick a lot.

Apples are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and quercetin, an antioxidant that’s known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

In fact, a May 2014 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases & Preventive Medicine suggests that quercetin may be promising in the treatment of the common cold.

3. Ginger

Fresh ginger is an effective remedy against HRSV infections, which cause colds and respiratory illnesses, a January 2013 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found.

I don’t care for ginger myself unless it’s with sushi, but my older daughter loves it, especially in green juices and smoothies. You can do the same, or add ginger to soup or a stir-fry, or brew a cup of ginger tea.

4. Eggs

In recent years, there’s been a ton of research looking at the benefits of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and not only are optimal levels important for overall health, but it lowers inflammation and supports healthy bones and teeth, and the brain, nervous and immune systems.

In fact, a February 2017 meta-analysis in BMJ found vitamin D protects against colds and the flu.

To find out how much your kids need, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has a guide.

High in vitamin D, eggs are one of the best foods that fight colds and flu. They’re also one of the most easy and versatile kid-friendly foods.

Serve eggs in a frittata or quiche, make egg “fried” rice, add hard-boiled eggs to a salad or serve them as a snack.

5. Garlic

Known for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects and its ability to boost the immune system, garlic can be an effective remedy for colds and infections.

When it comes to research about garlic’s efficacy however, the jury is still out.

A November 2014 Cochrane Review found insufficient evidence that garlic can prevent or treat the common cold.

Yet a June 2012 study in the journal Clinical Nutrition suggests that a garlic extract supplement may boost the immune system, which may in part, be responsible for reducing the severity of colds and the flu.

Although my kids despise it, I add garlic to just about every meal. You can find small, subtle ways to add garlic to your kid’s diet however, such as incorporating it in soups, stews or broth, pureeing it into hummus, or spreading minced garlic with a bit of olive oil on a piece of toasted bread.

6. Kefir

It might take your kids awhile to come around to its’ tangy taste and thick texture, but kefir one of the best foods that fight colds and flu, thanks to its immune-boosting probiotics.

Since kefir can be high in sugar however, read labels carefully. Or opt for plain kefir and blend low glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries to make it sweet.

7. Oranges

Consuming Vitamin C has long been seen as a way to prevent colds and infections, but most of the research hasn’t shown a direct link.

A 2014 Cochrane Review however, is promising. Kids who took 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C a day were found to have a 13.5% reduction in cold duration, or about a day less of feeling sick.

8. Berries

Strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries are fiber-rich and contain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and beta carotene. They’re also rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids that may have immune-boosting effects.

9. Whole grain bread

Whole grain bread is something your kid probably eats a lot of, which is good because it’s one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.

In fact, a March 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed whole grains had better gut health and an increase in memory T cells, a type of white blood cell that prevents infection.

10. Water

When my kids are sick, it can be really tough to get them to drink water. Yet encouraging them to drink is really helpful to loosen up nasal congestion and prevent dehydration, especially when they have fevers.

Regular H2O, warm water with lemon and honey, clear broths, or teas are all good choices.

Since it’s high in sugar, try to steer clear of juice. Alternatively, you can make a green smoothie or juice with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit, but keep portion sizes in mind.


11. Yogurt

Like kefir, yogurt can be a good source of probiotics. In fact, a June 2018 study in the journal Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, which was conducted in adults, showed probiotics are a safe and effective remedy for colds and flu-like respiratory infections.

Greek yogurt is a good option since it’s also high in protein.

Whether you buy regular yogurt of greek yogurt however, be choosy about brands. Look for those that state “live and active cultures.”

Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving. You can also buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Whether you have a kid who refuses to eat sandwiches, won’t eat anything green, or comes home everyday with most of the food you packed in his lunch box, you need school lunch ideas for picky eaters.

Although my own kids will eat just about anything, when it comes to school lunch they’ve become much more picky about what they eat. While they love the lentil chili I pack most of the time, one kid won’t eat cucumbers while the other would rather have a piece of fruit than pasta—go figure!

When it comes to school lunch ideas for picky eaters, there are so many healthy options and ways to transform ho-hum fruits and vegetables and old standbys into a lunch box your kid will love.

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters: Know What Foods To Pack

It’s definitely faster and easier to throw in lots of processed, packaged foods into your kid’s lunchbox.

Yet lunch is just as important as any other meal so making the most of it will support his growth and development and help him do his best throughout the school day.

When it comes to packing healthy food, here’s a simple guide which incorporates the major parts of MyPlate.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should make up 50 percent of your child’s lunch box.

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which will help satisfy your kid’s hunger and help him feel fuller longer. 

Do your best to “eat the rainbow” and offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

For your picky eater, pack fruits and vegetables you know he’ll eat.

After a few weeks, start to add in small amounts (a teaspoon will do) of new fruits and vegetables you’d like him to try.

If you’re consistent, chances are, he’ll eventually come around and they may even become his new favorite foods.

Pack protein

Protein is important for your kid’s growth and development and meals with protein keep hunger at bay, balance blood sugar and give your kid enough energy to keep up at school.

Protein should make up 1/4 of your child’s lunch box but you’ll want to focus on lean, quality protein sources instead of processed foods like deli meats and cheeses or hot dogs.

Try chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs, fish: canned salmon, sardines or tuna fish are all great, low-mercury options

Choose whole grains instead of refined grains

Grains should make up 1/4 of your child’s lunch box.

Whole grains have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber, which are stripped from refined grains.

Try whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, quinoa or another type of gluten-free grain.

Include milk or dairy

The USDA recommends including milk, yogurt or cheese in meals, which are all good sources of calcium that kids need for strong teeth and bones.

If your kids are dairy-free, or you’re trying to avoid dairy, they can still get plenty of calcium from green leafy vegetables, chia seeds and other calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Add healthy fats

Healthy fats like the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish support your child’s brain health and memory. While some foods like fish, nuts and seeds have both protein and healthy fats in them, if you’re not packing them, be sure to add small amounts of other foods with healthy fats like olive oil or avocado.

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Whether it’s a fun new take on sandwiches or a delicious way to get more veggies into your kid’s diet, there are so many easy, healthy options you can start putting into your lunch box rotation.

Sandwich sushi

Switch up your kid’s favorite sandwiches by making it into “sushi.” Grab your rolling pin and roll our regular sandwich bread or use a whole grain tortilla. Add nut or seed butter and smashed berries, or deli meat and cheese. Then roll it up, cut it into small pieces and you have a fun new way to serve lunch. 

Deli roll-ups

Ditch the bread altogether and make a roll-up with sliced turkey, ham or roast beef cheese and lettuce, for example.

Grilled cheese with vegetables

One of the best school lunch ideas for picky eaters is grilled cheese because it’s usually a kid-favorite. Make it even more tasty and more nutritious by adding spinach, diced broccoli or slices of pepper, for example.

Rice bowl

Mix in leftover sauteed vegetables with brown rice and your kid’s favorite protein and you have a healthy, delicious school lunch option.

Spring rolls

Another delicious option for school lunch are spring rolls. Get spring roll wrappers, add a protein, vegetables and seasonings. Need a recipe? Check out this one for Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce from Cookie and Kate.

Soup

This time of year, soup can be one of the best school lunch ideas for picky eaters. If you’re inclined to make your own homemade soup, you can incorporate several servings of vegetables—whole or pureed.

If you buy soup in a can or box, or one that’s prepared in the store, read labels and compare brands because most soups you’ll find are high in sodium and added sugars.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are super-easy and take just minutes to pull together. You can also switch them up with different types of vegetables, cheese and healthy fats like avocado.

Eggs

If you’ve got an egg lover on your hands, make the most of it by serving up eggs for school lunch. Try omelets, egg “muffins,” quiche or a frittata and experiment with different types of veggies.

Related: [Video] 6 Health Benefits of Eggs for Kids + How to Serve Them

Veggie “fries”

If your kid usually comes home with the vegetables you packed, try serving them a different way—as faux fries. Slice zucchini, eggplant, yucca, carrot, or jicama, spray them with some olive oil and roast them in the oven on high heat. For more flavor and texture, you can also dip vegetables in egg and breadcrumb and bake them.

Kabobs

Kids love food on sticks and kabobs can be an easy to assemble, healthy school lunch. Choose your protein and add sliced peppers, mushrooms, squash, onions, cherry tomatoes, and meat or tofu for a healthy portion of vegetables.

Bean or lentil burgers

Beans and legumes are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, but if your picky eater won’t eat beans or lentils alone, try making them into burgers.

Lettuce wraps

With a lettuce wrap, you’ll get an extra dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber and a nice texture without the bread. You can also use the same ingredients you would when you make sandwiches: sliced turkey, egg salad, leftover roasted chicken or chili meat.

Tips for Using School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

To make the most of these lunch box ideas, and make it easy on yourself, try these tips.

Pack school lunches the night before

Let’s face it: mornings are seriously hectic. I usually wake up at 5:30am but 3 hours later when the bus comes, I’m still rushing out the door.

I know that once the kiddos are in bed at night, all you want to do is put on Netflix or curl up with a good book, but packing school lunches at night can save a lot of time in the morning.

Batch cook

Set aside a few hours on Sunday or use your Crock-Pot or InstantPot to make large batches of vegetables and rice and beans, for example, that you can pack for school lunches.

Use a bento box

Kids love to have choices and a bento box is a great way to pack a variety of foods and plenty of nutrition into a school lunch that your kid will love.

Try a meal planning app

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat their lunch is to involve them in the process. Go grocery shopping together and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable they’d like to try.

Also consider using a free meal planning app like LaLa Lunchbox together or let them have a hand in making their own lunches.

Stay consistent

Your kids may be still be envious of what other kids are eating for lunch or complain that they don’t like what you’re packing. It can be really frustrating but stick with it.

Remember that your goal is to raise healthy kids who are willing to try—and eventually accept—a variety of healthy foods.

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

Feeding kids is one of many daily jobs we have as moms that like an office gig, has its fair share of challenges, but without any of the pay. If you’re like me, you’re constantly searching for healthy dinner recipes as well as easy and healthy snack ideas for kids. Not only do I get tired of the same snacks every day, but I also want new ways to make the most of snack time and get more nutrition in my kids’ diets.

If you, too, feel like you’re all out of ideas and you’re ready to cut down on all the processed foods, read on for 15 healthy snack ideas for kids that you can feel good about whether you’re dropping the kids off at day care, serving after-school snacks or traveling with the kids in tow.

WHY YOU NEED HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

Don’t get me wrong: a bag of crackers, pretzels or cookies have saved me on more than one occasion, especially when there’s no food in the house or I’m rushing to get the kids out the door in the morning amidst all the crying about what to wear and mommy, she’s not sharing!

Yet most of the easy kids’ snacks you’ll find in the grocery store are so highly-processed you can’t even call them food.

Most are made with refined carbohydrates, and are high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and artificial food dyes.

Most lack the fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets. 

There are also the seemingly healthy snacks like Welch’s fruit snacks.

My kids love them too, and the company does a really good job of calling attention to the fact that they’re “made with real fruit.”

Take a closer look at the ingredients however, and you’ll discover that they certainly are made with real fruit—albeit a fruit puree—but they also contain corn syrup, sugar, and some of their flavors have artificial food dyes.

Seriously, is this what you want to feed your kids? I didn’t think so.

More bad news about highly-processed snacks: diets high in these foods are linked to high blood pressure, high blood sugar which can lead to pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes, childhood obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—a condition that’s on the rise in kids.

Studies show eating refined carbohydrates and sugars, pesticides, preservatives, and artificial food dyes leads to altered thinking and behavior and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Another thing to consider is that there’s been a ton of research in recent years about intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions in the large intestine open and allow undigested food particles and pathogens in, which in turn elicits an immune response.

Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to various conditions including allergies, asthma, fatigue, autoimmunity, migraines and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Last, but definitely not least, is one of personal opinion. I think many parents think: What’s the big deal? They’re just kids.

And although your kid may have a normal weight and he’s healthy overall, the way I see it is that kids are blank slates.

We want to give them the best possible start in life and set them up for healthy habits now.

But it’s not just me who thinks this way. Experts say the more fake food kids eat—and the longer they eat themthe higher their risk for a long list of chronic health conditions down the line.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD KIDS SNACK?

In the U.S., our kids snack all the time: at daycare, pre-school, mom’s groups and on playdates.

They snack in their strollers, in the car, on the playground and after sports.

At school, young kids have a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

At my kids’ school, some parents pack snacks in their kids’ lunchbox. Kids can also buy snacks (chips, cookies, ice cream, etc.) at lunch time, which is there for no other reason than to offset the financial shortfall the school district faces. 

Of course, there are also after-school snacks and after-dinner snacks.

So you may have wondered like I did, how often should kids snack?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), snacks are not only an opportunity to support a kid’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day to begin with, so snack time can be a way to pack in more.

Snacks also give kids plenty of opportunities to learn what they like to eat—

and what they don’t—and chances to choose healthy foods and eventually become adventurous eaters.

Yet snack too many times a day, and it can displace calories at mealtime and it may be why your kid isn’t hungry when dinner time rolls around.

Related: [VIDEO] 6 REASONS YOUR KID WON’T EAT AT MEALS

There’s no hard and fast rule about when and how many times a day kids should have snacks but some experts have a bit of insight. “A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about 1-2 hours before the next meal begins,” Jo Ellen Shields, MED, RD, LD, co-author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens, said in this article.

The AAP suggests toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day to get the nutrition they need.

According to Jill Castle, RDN, in addition to 3 meals a day, school-aged kids need 1 to 2 snacks a day and teens need one snack a day unless they’re athletes or are having a growth spurt.

When offering snacks, you should also pay attention to portion sizes so the snack doesn’t turn into a meal.

HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

With so many snack food labels calling attention to health claims like all-natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, high in fiber, made with real fruit, no sugar added and sugar-free, it can be difficult to choose a healthy snack for your kids.

That’s why I suggest you focus on real food and some minimally-processed snacks.

Cutting down on processed foods takes time and although you can’t expect your kid to be on board right away, you can make it happen!

1. Vegetables any which way

Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, have fiber to satisfy your kid’s hunger and they can encourage kids to love vegetables at other meals.

Chances are, you probably won’t have much luck serving raw vegetables the first few times around and can you blame them?

Raw vegetables are ho-hum, so make them tasty!

Try serving baby carrots, celery, jicama (cut up like sticks), slices of cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower with hummus, guacamole or a plant-based dip like bean, beet, artichoke or spinach.

Homemade dips are always better because you know what’s in them.

If you’re buying a store-bought dip however, read labels carefully and avoid added sugars and artificial ingredients and compare brands for calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content.

Another way to serve vegetables that will appeal to your kids is by trying different cooking methods like roasting or sautéing or serving vegetables spiralized, cut up like fries or even pureed.

2. Fruit and cheese

Cheese is high in protein and calcium and when it’s paired with fruit, it’s an easy, delicious combination.

Some yummy combinations to try include tomatoes with mozzarella, figs with brie, watermelon with feta, pear and blue cheese, or apple and cheddar.

3. Smoothies

Making smoothies is a great way to get in several servings of fruits and vegetables in one sitting.

When making smoothies, stick to an 80/20 ratio of vegetables to fruit to cut down on the sugar.

Include some protein by adding your kid’s favorite nut butter, chia seeds or protein powder.

Any blender will do but I’m a big fan of Vitamix because it’s a high performance blender that makes not only smoothies, but juices, dips, breads and so much more.

4. Chia seed pudding

Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, a good source of calcium and the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show support cardiovascular health, lower inflammation, prevent chronic disease, and support brain health.

Chia seed pudding is one of the best healthy snack ideas for kids because it’s a great alternative to most store-bought puddings that are high in sugar and have artificial ingredients.

You can find recipes for chia seed pudding but it’s pretty simple: your choice of milk, the chia seeds and flavor-filled add-ins like cacoa or cocoa powder, pure vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon, or a drizzle of real maple syrup or honey.

Combine everything in a mason jar and let it sit overnight. You can also top chia seed pudding with fresh or frozen fruit for more fiber and some sweetness.

5. No-bake energy bites

I love no-bake energy bites because they take minutes to make and are a healthy snack option for kids.

Depending on the ingredients you use, they can be a good source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Most recipes call for rolled oats, nuts and seeds, raisins and other types of dried fruit.

They’re also bite sized—perfect for toddlers!—and an easy option for school lunch, after-school sports or when you’re traveling.

6. A piece of fruit with nut or seed butter

Ideally, a health snack should be made up of fiber and protein and the combination of fruit and a nut or seed butter is a great choice.

Pair bananas, apples or pears with peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, or pumpkin seed butter.

7. Healthy snack bars

Snack bars are a great choice especially when you’re tight on time, but not all are created equal.

When buying a healthy snack bar, look for those that use whole food ingredients, have a good amount of protein and fiber, and are low in sugar and sodium.

KIND and Larabar are two of my favorites.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY SNACK BAR FOR KIDS

8. Trail mix

Kids love variety and just like the no-bake energy bites, trail mix has lots of options.

Nuts and seeds are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but many store-bought trail mixes are filled with salty nuts, too much dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and candy.

If you want to have control of the ingredients, make your own: pick the nuts and seeds, and use unsweetened dried fruit. If you’re going to add chocolate, stick to dark chocolate, which has antioxidants and has just the right amount of sweetness without too much sugar.

9. Beans


Black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas and edamame are all quick and easy healthy snack ideas for kids.

Not only do kids love finger foods but these are also a great grab-and-go option when you’re out and about.

10. Dried fruit and nuts or seeds

While fresh fruit is ideal because of the high amount of nutrition it provides, dried fruit with nuts or seeds is still a great choice.

Related: [VIDEO] IS DRIED FRUIT HEALTHY FOR KIDS?

When buying dried fruit, read labels carefully and look for products where dried fruit is the only ingredient.

For cranberries, chose those that are sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, Cynthia Sass, RD states in this article.

Also, avoid dried fruit with artificial preservatives like sulfur dioxide and other additives. Above all, watch portion sizes.

11. Hard-boiled eggs

Eggs are loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 7 grams—and hard boiled eggs are quick and easy: boil a dozen and you’ll have plenty on hand for snacks throughout the week.

You can serve a hard boiled egg alone, or pair it with vegetables or fruit.

12. Yogurt

Yogurt is high in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in

sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, and a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract for extra flavor.

13. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber which stave off hunger and keep blood sugar levels steady.

Non-GMO, trans-fat free and low in sodium, SkinnyPop is one of my favorite brands.

14. Muffins

Muffins or mini-muffins can be a healthy snack option but most store-bought brands are made with refined carbohydrates, are low in fiber and high in sugar.

Read labels carefully or consider making your own with healthy ingredients like pumpkin puree, spinach or zucchini, for example.

15. Hummus and mini pitas

Kids love dip and hummus is a great option because it’s packed with protein, fiber and the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

Pair with mini pita bread pockets or small pieces of pita bread and you have a healthy and satisfying snack.

 

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks for kids? Let me know in the comments!

How to Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

How to Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

     When you go to the grocery store or your favorite big box retailer (ahem, Target!) looking for a healthy snack bar for your kids, the amount of choices on the shelves can make your head spin. Just a few years ago, it seemed that the healthy snack bar market only consisted of options for adults, but now I’ve noticed a ton of brands have come out with kid-sized versions as well.

In fact, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global snack bars market was worth an estimated 20.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow by more than 6 percent by 2025.

Of course, this growth is in response to consumer demand.

We’re more interested than ever before in health and fitness, and we’re busy so we need easy, convenient and healthy snack options.

There are plenty of seemingly healthy choices and bars made with good-for-you ingredients like fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds, but sifting through all the ingredients and comparing labels is way too time consuming.

So let me make your life easier and walk you through everything you need to know about choosing a healthy snack bar for your kids, plus some of my favorite brands and homemade recipes.

Benefits of a Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

Kids love their snacks and serving up healthy options is aways a good thing.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), snacks are not only an opportunity to add nutrition into your child’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Although it’s always ideal to serve fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods to maximize nutrition, a healthy snack bar with dried fruit for example, can be an opportunity to get more servings in your kid’s diet.

Related: [VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

Offering healthy snacks also helps to balance your kid’s blood sugar, stave off hunger and prevent overeating.

How many snacks should a child eat a day?

There’s no hard and fast rule about when and how many times a day kids should eat snacks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day to get the nutrition they need.

According to Jill Castle, RDN, in addition to 3 meals a day, school-aged kids need 1 to 2 snacks a day and teens need one snack a day unless they’re athletes or having a growth spurt.

“A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about 1-2 hours before the next meal begins,” Jo Ellen Shields, MED, RD, LD, co-author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens, said in this article.

Cons of serving kids snack bars

Despite the benefits of healthy snacking, experts say kids are snacking too much—a trend that’s responsible for the one-third of children who are overweight or obese.   

According to a March 2010 study in Health Affairs, kids reach for snacks 3 times a day and consume up to 600 calories from foods like chips, crackers, candy and dessert bars.

What’s more, the largest increase in snacking over the years is among kids between ages 2 and 6, the same study found.

When kids snack non-stop, they’re also less likely to be hungry when mealtime rolls around. So although a healthy snack bar can have its place in your kid’s diet, it can also displace calories from other healthy, whole foods they might otherwise get at meals. 

Something else I think that’s important to consider is our snack culture and the habits we’re teaching our kids.

Relying on snack bars (or any other type of processed snack) every day teaches kids to eat out of a package instead of eating real food.

Convenient makes our lives easier, but kids are missing out on valuable lessons like eating mindfully, shopping for healthy food, and preparing and cooking healthy meals.

If we want to raise healthy kids who not only accept, but crave healthy foods, we need to teach them these life lessons.

How to choose a healthy snack bar

Before you head to the store, there are some things to consider as you look for a healthy snack bar.

While you shouldn’t scrutinize calories, some of the snack bars have enough calories to be a meal for kids.

Also, when considering things like the amount of protein, fiber and sugar, you have to think about your kid’s overall diet. If your kid is already getting too much sugar from other snacks for example, you’ll want to think about the amount of sugar in the bar you choose.

Pay attention to protein
Protein promotes satiety, staves off hunger and can prevent weight, so it’s the first thing you should look for on a label, especially because a lot of snack bars have little to none.

Look for filling fiber
Most kids don’t get enough fiber from fruits, vegetable and whole grains. In fact, 9 in 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 39 percent don’t eat any whole grains.

When you’re looking for a healthy snack bar, be sure to choose one that’s high-fiber. Not only is fiber filling, but it balances blood sugar levels, is heart-healthy, supports gut health, helps to prevent weight gain, and can help prevent and cure constipation. 

Related: How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?

Watch out for sugar
The American Heart Association says kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day, but studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—eat too much.

Also, sugar is sneaky and can be hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. When looking for a healthy snack bar, read labels and look for those with the least amount of sugar possible.

Avoid these ingredients
It’s best to avoid bars that have rice, due to concerns of arsenic, as well as artificial ingredients, preservatives and food dyes.

You may also want to avoid bars made with processed ingredients like chicory root fiber and soy, whey or pet protein isolates and stick to whole-food protein sources like nuts and seeds.

Look at saturated fat content
The long-standing myth that eating fat causes high cholesterol, heart disease and weight gain has been debunked and we now know that healthy fats are essential to our health and our kids’ health.

Fats are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger. They’re essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like  A, D, E, and K. Fat are also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

While experts agree it’s the trans fats and some saturated fats that should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods are beneficial.

So look for bars that have healthy fats like nuts, peanut butter, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, for example.

Some of my favorite healthy snack bar options

KIND bars
I’m a big fan of KIND bars because they use whole ingredients like fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds and most are low in sugar. They have a wide selection of bars, including protein bars, breakfast bars and nut-free bars as well as their KIND Minis which are a good option for kids. Now through October 10, 2019, you can get 15% off their fall variety pack.

Larabar
Larabar is one of my favorite brands because they only use between 2 and 9 whole food ingredients, some of their varieties are nut-free and they’re delicious. They also have bars with ingredients like spinach and kale, and a superfoods line with bars made with turmeric, ginger and cacao. While they also have a set of bars for kids, they don’t have fruits and vegetables and have less protein and fiber.

RX Bar
RX Bar are a protein bar brand that prides themselves on simple, whole ingredients that are clearly labeled on the front of the package. For little ones, stick with their kids’ bars which have the right amount of calories, protein and fiber and come in kid-friendly flavors like PB&J and chocolate chip.

This Saves Lives
This Saves Lives kids bars are made with fruits and vegetables and whole oats, only have 5 grams of sugar and are allergy- safe. One thing to note is that this is not a high-protein bar and some of their varieties have more fiber than others so read labels. What’s unique about the brand and something you can feel good about however, is that for every bar that’s purchased, the company sends life-saving food packet to a child in need around the world.

Or make your own healthy snack bar

I love to make homemade Larabars with my kids because it’s fun and they learn how to prepare healthy snacks. So if you’re so inclined too, here are some recipes to try.

Homemade Lara Bars by Super Healthy Kids

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Bars by Mom to Mom Nutrition

Homemade RX Bars by Super Healthy Kids

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars by Yummy Toddler Food

 

What’s your favorite healthy snack bar? Let me know in the comments!

[VIDEO] How To Boost Your Kids’ Immunity

[VIDEO] How To Boost Your Kids’ Immunity

If you have little kids, there’s no getting around the amount of times they get sick with colds, fevers and infections. Sure, you can do your best encourage them to wash their hands, keep their hands out of their mouths, and avoid putting toys, books, and everything else in their mouths, but chances are you’ll still want to find ways to boost your kids’ immunity.

Last year was particular difficult for our family in terms of the amount of times we all got sick.

If it wasn’t a fever, it was a cold and it seemed that my kids were sick every week. Although I rarely get sick, I too, had on again, off again fevers throughout the winter.

The ultimate blow however, was the flu. If you’re wondering, yes, we all had the flu shot—even my husband. Yet once my older daughter came home with the flu, we all got sick one after another.

Experts say that although the flu shot isn’t 100% effective—last year it was only 29% effective—it can still lower the severity of the flu if you get it. I find this hard to believe because it was so bad, I thought for sure I was knocking on death’s door.

This year, I’m hoping that because my kids are older, they understand better how to prevent the spread of germs and they’re taking probiotics, we’ll have better luck (Related: 10 Foods High In Probiotics for Kids)

So as we head into the fall and the flu season (experts say it’s going to be a bad one!), there are some things you can do to prevent your kids from getting sick so often. In today’s video, I have three easy ways to boost your kids’ immunity and keep them healthy.

What are some ways you have found effective to boost your kids’ immunity? Let me know in the comments! 

Is Chocolate Milk Good For Kids?

Is Chocolate Milk Good For Kids?

My kids like to drink milk, but it’s not something they drink often. After interviewing experts about the benefits and drawbacks of different types of milk for this Fox News story, I was sold on the research that shows cow’s milk is inflammatory, linked to a host of diseases, and it’s not even the best source of calcium in the first place. From time to time, my kids also indulge in chocolate milk but it’s usually for a special occasion. Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about why school lunch isn’t healthy and its link to childhood obesity, and because it’s on the school lunch menu, it begs the question, is chocolate milk good for kids?

Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

Benefits of drinking chocolate milk

In schools, serving chocolate milk is seen by proponents as a way to encourage kids to drink milk when they otherwise wouldn’t.

According to DairyMAX, a non-profit organization affiliate of the Dairy Council, flavored milk is good for kids for some of the following reasons:

 

  • Kids who drink flavored milk drink more milk overall.
  • Kids who consume flavored milk get more nutrients than kids who don’t drink milk.
  • Kids who drink flavored milk are less likely to drink soda and juice.

When it comes to the benefits of chocolate milk, let’s take a look at the nutritional composition of one cup of  low-fat chocolate milk:

 

Calories: 157

Protein:  8.1 grams

Carbohydrates: 26.1 grams

Dietary fiber: 1.2 grams

Sugars: 24.8 grams

Fat: 2.5 grams

Calcium: 29 %DV

Vitamin D: 25 %DV

Riboflavin:  24 %DV

Phosphorus: 26 %DV

Milk also has other nutrients like vitamins A, B6, B12, magnesium, niacin, selenium and zinc, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

Related: 5 Foods With Healthy Fats Your Kids Will Love

There’s no doubt chocolate milk has some nutritional value, including calcium, which kids need for strong teeth and bones.

Yet there are far better sources of calcium than milk, which also don’t contain growth hormones, allergenic proteins and antibiotics.

Some include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Black turtle beans
  • Sardines (my kids love them!)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Rhubarb
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Salmon
  • Figs
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens

 

Is chocolate milk good for kids as a post-workout recovery drink?

In addition to school lunch, chocolate milk is also often promoted as a post-workout recovery drink for athletes.

Thanks to its’ protein, carbohydrates, fat and water and electrolytes, chocolate milk may be a great recovery drink that rebuilds and refuels muscles, according to research out of the University of Connecticut.

In fact, a June 2018 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found drinking chocolate milk has similar—or superior—results compared to either water or other sports drinks.

However, it’s important to note that the authors say this isn’t definitive and more research is needed.

Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says flavored milk in schools is OK, but instead of sports and energy drinks (which are also high in sugar) after a workout, water is best. Sort of contradictory, right?

 

Drawbacks of drinking chocolate milk

Although it’s a good (but not the best) source of calcium for strong teeth and bones, as you can see, chocolate milk is high in sugar: 24 grams or more sugar than a Mr. Goodbar!

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids 2 and older, they should have less than 25 grams of added sugar a day.

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

Chocolate milk, as well as soda, sweetened ice teas, lemonade, sports and energy drinks, fruit punch, and apple juice already make up a majority of the amount of sugar kids get in their diets.

In fact, between 2011 and 2014, 63 percent of kids consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The other drawback of drinking chocolate milk is that some brands add artificial ingredients and additives.

One more thing to consider is the motivation behind serving chocolate milk in schools.

Despite a lack of evidence that milk is the best food to build strong bones—and may actually lead to more fractures—the government mandates schools serve milk at every meal because they can’t get their federal lunch money unless they do, Dr. Mark Hyman states in his book, “Food: What The Heck Should I Eat.

Although studies show that when chocolate milk is removed from school lunch menus, milk consumption drops, I’m not so sure this is a bad thing.

In fact, in February 2019, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine called on the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to update the new guidelines to include a warning about the health dangers of dairy.

Regardless of where you stand on giving your kids regular milk or chocolate milk, I think it’s a good idea to take stock of their diets overall.

For example, if your child eats a mainly whole foods diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and fats, and whole grains, there’s probably nothing wrong with serving up chocolate milk for an occasional treat or dessert.

If your kids already eat a lot of sugar however, including sneaky sugars like those found in yogurt, cereal, dressings, sauces and dried and canned fruits, chocolate milk isn’t going to do their bodies any good.

Let me know what you think: is chocolate milk good for kids? Leave me a comment.

Is School Lunch To Blame For Childhood Obesity?

Is School Lunch To Blame For Childhood Obesity?

We all know the sobering statistics: 30 percent of kids in the U.S. are overweight or obese. We also know that consuming high-calorie, low nutrient foods like fast food, processed foods and sugary drinks, spending too much time watching TV or in front of devices, and lack of exercise and sleep are to blame. But there’s another topic that’s been debated in recent years: is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity?

Is cafeteria food healthy?

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a program that provides federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast, serves more than 30 million kids in the U.S. every day.

Something that surprised me as I was conducting research is that 50 percent of the calories kids consume are at school.

This is particular important for kids who receive free and reduced lunch since what they eat at school can make up a significant amount of the nutrition they get all day.

When the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed, the goal was to provide healthier school lunches.

Schools participating in the NSLP made some positive changes to their menus like adding more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, limiting the amount of calories and reducing the amount of sodium in meals.

The good news is that the changes seemed to work.

In April 2019, the USDA released the “School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study,” which found the Healthy Eating Index, or the nutritional quality of school lunches, increased 41 percent between school years 2009-2010 and 2014-15.

Another win is that studies show when school lunches became healthier, kids ate more entrees, vegetables and fruit. 

In December 2018 however, the Trump administration rolled back the school lunch standards, giving schools even more flexibility to serve foods that are within a budget but only worsen our kids’ health.

With the new changes in effect, schools can now offer 1% chocolate milk and strawberry milk and keep the same levels of sodium in meals, instead of reducing it.

School are also only required to have half of the grains on the menu be whole grains.

Whether the schools stick to the old guidelines or not, I’m not convinced that school lunch is healthy to begin with.

Let’s take my kids’ school lunch menu as an example.

Nearly all of the items that are offered are highly-processed, made with factory-farmed animal products, and are frozen foods that come out of a package.

Take a look at some of the foods they offer:

  • crispy chicken patty          
  • general tso’s chicken
  • beef nachos with tortilla chips 
  • hot dogs                  
  • tater tots
  • processed deli meats and cheeses                                                
  • popcorn chicken
  • chicken nuggets
  • mozzarella sticks
  • pizza
  • hamburgers and cheeseburgers
  • French toast sticks
  • Bosco sticks (breadsticks)

There are also several items on the school lunch menu that are high in sugar, including:

Of course, diets high in processed foods and sugar are associated with increased rates of childhood obesity.

Another factor to consider is that with a menu that’s made up of mostly foods like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, macaroni and cheese and other kid-friendly foods, we’re explicitly teaching our kids this is a healthy way to eat.

Instead of having a plate made where fruits and vegetables are front and center, in the school cafeteria, they’re presented in a way that makes them look like they’re a side dish.

Plus, take a look at the nutritional value of some of these foods.

Consider the pancakes that the USDA encourages schools to offer as “breakfast for lunch.” With only 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of sugar, it’s definitely not what our kids should be eating.


School lunch might be healthy, but fruits and vegetables are being thrown in the trash

Another concern with school lunch is the amount of food that is wasted everyday.

One study estimates that the food thrown in the garbage at school accounts for $1.2 billion annually.

If you’ve had lunch with your kid (something I recommend you do), you know how crowded, loud and chaotic it is, particularly in the elementary schools.

According to a January 2016 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids who had 20 minutes or less to eat lunch consumed 13 percent less of their entrees, 12 percent less of their vegetables, and 10 percent less of milk compared to kids who had 25 minutes or more to eat. There was also more food waste for kids who had less time to eat.

Yet more time to eat lunch, quieter cafeterias, and less crowding is associated with higher consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a January 2019 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found.

So although kids might be offered healthy school lunches, if they’re not eating them, what’s the point?

If fruits and vegetables are being tossed, kids aren’t getting the fiber and water content these foods provide which satisfy hunger and aid in weight control.

Furthermore, if kids aren’t eating foods that fill them up, chances are they’re making up for it with processed snacks at other times of the day.

Is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity?

A 2009 report out of Northwestern University (before the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed), suggests kids who eat school lunch are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who bring lunch from home.

What’s more, kids who are eligible for free and reduced lunch weigh significantly more than kids who are ineligible by the end of first grade.

The research that has looked specifically at girls is also important to note.

According to an April 2011 study in JAMA Pediatrics, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) for girls from low-income families who consumed lunches in the NSLP was the same for those who did not. However, girls who consumed the lunches gained weight faster and the differences between the two groups were significant. 

What is the school’s role in preventing childhood obesity?

When it comes to the responsibility of schools to offer healthy school lunches and do their part in preventing childhood obesity, parents say they play a significant role.

According to a June 2013 survey by Kaiser Permanente, 90 percent of Americans say schools should play the biggest community role in fighting childhood obesity.

Plus, according to a January 2019 survey by Revolution Foods, a provider of healthy school meals, 66 percent of parents say that while they and the schools should share the responsibility of offering and teaching kids about nutrition, they look to the schools to encourage healthy eating habits and offer healthy, delicious meals throughout the year.

 


Preventing childhood obesity starts with parents

If kids eat lunch every day at school, or even once in awhile, schools certainly play a role in the food that is being served, how it is served and the environment in which it is consumed.

Although I believe that schools have some responsibility for preventing childhood obesity, like anything else when it comes to our kids, childhood obesity starts with us.


Related: Are Parents To Blame For Childhood Obesity?


In fact, a June 2019 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that parents play an integral role in preventing childhood obesity.

In the study, researchers looked at two groups of parents: a Health Education group who were mailed information about nutrition and parenting strategies to make changes and the Developing Relationships that Include Values of Eating and Exercise (DRIVE) group, made up of parents who met with a psychologist and nutritionist. This group was encouraged to plan healthy meals, reduce the amount of screen time and move more.

The result? Researchers found kids in the DRIVE group gained less weight than the less intervention group.

Kids learn from their parents so if we’re not serving healthy food, teaching healthy eating habits and encouraging our kids to move more, get sleep and have healthy lifestyle habits—and show them how we do the same— we can’t blame the schools for childhood obesity.

Here are some tips to consider.

Serve fruits and vegetables as much as possible
Do your best to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack, which will give your kids the nutrition they need, help satisfy their hunger, and prevent overeating.

Make healthy food visible and accessible
According to the 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report, “children’s choices depend on what is most visible and easily accessible.”

So resist the urge to stock your pantry with chips, crackers and cookies and other types of fake food and put healthy food at eye level.

Also, spend 30 minutes or so on the weekend to wash and cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in clear glass containers front and center in the refrigerator.

Cook healthy meals
Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall and are less likely to become obese.

Cooking healthy meals also shows kids what real food and a healthy plate look like and can help prevent picky eating.

Teach healthy eating habits
Lead by example and show kids how to eat slowly and mindfully, eat sitting at the table (instead of in the car or in front of the TV,) and how to recognize their hunger and satiety signals. Also, avoid using food as a reward.

Move more
Kids should get 60 minutes of exercise everyday and although it can be challenging to find the time, your kids won’t be motivated to be active if you’re not.

Try to take walks after dinner, have an indoor “dance party” on rainy or snow days or play Twister.   

 

What do you think: is school lunch to blame for childhood obesity? Let me know in the comments.

11 Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Kids

11 Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Kids

Growing up in the 80’s, breakfast usually consisted of cereal: Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (still my favorite!), and Honey Bunches of Oats. Today, so much has changed and although as parents we want meals to be easy and fast, we also need healthy breakfast ideas that are packed with protein, filled with fiber and have plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Another thing that’s changed over the years is that because of our kids’ dietary restrictions, food allergies, food preferences and picky eating behaviors, we as moms have found ourselves focused on things like:

  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Plant-based
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Low-carb
  • High-protein
  • Nut-free

So despite all of the choices we have, we’re all short on time (and patience!) and can’t sift through the tons of healthy breakfast recipes that will work for our kids. As a result, we tend to serve the same breakfasts day after day.

Nevertheless, the old adage, breakfast is the most important part of the day, still holds true today. So busting through the boredom and having healthy breakfast ideas you can put into rotation will help your kids thrive—and make your hectic life a bit easier.

 

Benefits of a healthy breakfast for kids

Serving up a healthy breakfast daily can:

  • Give kids the nutrition the need for healthy growth and development
  • Provide the energy they need at school
  • Help them stay alert and focused
  • Prevent weight gain, childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes
  • Improve their mood and behavior

 

More nutrition

Kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, according to a August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Lower risk of weight gain and childhood obesity

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

Although I don’t think we should encourage our children to eat two breakfasts, eating even a small, healthy breakfast can go a long way.

Lower risk of type-2 diabetes

According to a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine, 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

A healthy breakfast helps to balance your child’s blood sugar and give him a steady amount of energy until lunchtime.

Better mood, behavior and body image

You know the feeling when you’re hangry: you’re tired, irritable and on edge. And your kids are no different.

When kids skip breakfast, their energy and blood sugar dips, which affects their mood and behavior. If your kids are snappy with you, have frequent meltdowns or seem cranky, try feeding them a healthy breakfast.

What’s more, a February 2019 study in the journal Social Work In Public Health found teens who eat breakfast with their families have a stronger body image than those who skip the meal.

Improved academic performance

Kids need to eat a healthy breakfast because it’s nearly impossible to stay focused and concentrate on anything when you’re hungry.

Breakfast fuels their bodies with the key nutrients they need to listen, learn, understand, complete tasks and boost their overall function at school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

 

What should a healthy breakfast include?

 

Vegetables

I know it sounds like a pipe dream, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids eat vegetables at every meal and snack. Depending on your kid’s age, they need between 1 and 3 cups of vegetables a day.

Serving vegetables at breakfast is actually a great opportunity to teach kids what a healthy meal looks like. And the more opportunities they have to eat vegetables, the more likely they will.

When kids eat vegetables at breakfast, they’ll get the nutrition they need for their  growth and development and to help prevent serious health conditions as they get older. Vegetables are also filled with fiber which will help them stay satiated and may prevent weight gain.

Related: 7 Ways to Feed Kids Vegetables for Breakfast


Fruit

Fresh, whole fruit has plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water which kids not only need to thrive, but promotes feelings of satiety and can prevent constipation.

Protein

Protein helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure to include protein with breakfast staves off hunger, balances blood sugar and can prevent weight gain.

Whole grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and fiber. Unlike white, refined grains, whole grains do a better job of satisfying hunger and balancing your kid’s blood sugar levels.

Healthy fats

We now know that fats are not the villain they were made out to be for years. Healthy fats like those found in fish, avocado and nuts are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger.

Fats are essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like  A, D, E, and K. Fat are also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

 


Healthy breakfast ideas with eggs

With nearly 30 grams of protein in one large egg, plus several key nutrients like potassium, vitamin D, B vitamins, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids, eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

Hard-boiled eggs

Boiling a batch of hard-boiled eggs in the beginning of the week is the ultimate time saver and ensures you’ll have a quick and healthy breakfast that’s also a great option when you’re rushing out the door in the morning. Pair eggs with veggies, a fruit and whole grain option and you’re set.

Egg muffin cups

The great thing about egg muffin cups is that you can make a batch and have a quick and easy option ready to go. You can also customize the egg muffins with leftover vegetables and your choice of meat and cheese—or none at all.

Try this recipe: Veggie Egg Muffins

Frittata or quiche

Using eggs in a frittata, quiche or breakfast casserole is easy and a great way to serve vegetables for breakfast. Try this recipe: Broccoli, Cheddar & Spinach Frittata

Breakfast burrito

A breakfast burrito with eggs, veggies and beans is a great healthy breakfast to have on hand.

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber which will give your kids plenty of energy and brain power until lunch time. Also, the more often you serve them—at breakfast or at other meals—the more likely your kids will eat them.

Try putting out beans with their favorite extras: salsa, avocado, cheese and a whole wheat tortilla and let them make their own breakfast burrito.

 

Healthy breakfast ideas without eggs

Healthy overnight oats

Cooking oatmeal in the morning takes time but putting together individual mason jars of overnight oats takes just a few minutes. Start with rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill) and add milk, fruit and chia seeds and you have a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast ready by the time your kids wake up.

Baked oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is my (and my kids’) new favorite way to serve up a healthy breakfast. Instead of waiting for oatmeal to cook on the stovetop, you simply add your ingredients to a loaf pan, bake it the night before and you have breakfast for a few days. Try this recipe: Baked Oatmeal With Pumpkin and Bananas.

Healthy breakfast smoothies and smoothie bowls

I’m not a fan of pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so kids will eat them, but when you make a green smoothie or a smoothie bowl, it’s no secret what they’re eating.

Smoothies are a great way to feed kids vegetables for breakfast and get several servings in at once. A good rule of thumb when making smoothies or juices is to use 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. Add protein like your kid’s favorite nut or seed butter and serve with whole grain toast.

Yogurt parfait

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein and a parfait for breakfast couldn’t easier. Since most yogurt brands have plenty of added sugar, stick with plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit like raspberries and a low-sugar granola for extra fiber.

Related: How To Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt


Avocado toast

Avocado is chock full of nutrition, and high in fiber and healthy fats. When it’s paired with whole grain toast and vegetables and fruit, it also makes for a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast.


Protein bars

Grabbing a protein or breakfast bar is quick and simple, but most bars are high in sugar and contain artificial ingredients. Read labels carefully and look for those with protein, fiber and low sugar.  Or, make your own breakfast bars with whole ingredients like oats, dried fruit and nuts or seeds.

Healthy breakfast pudding

Pumpkin is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids so I was so excited when—after interviewing Danielle Walker of AgainstAllGrain.com—I discovered her delicious recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding.

If you’re trying to avoid gluten or simply looking for new breakfast options, try it out. My kids loved it and it was so quick and easy to make.


What are some of your favorite healthy breakfast ideas? Let me know in the comments.

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms

When my daughters go back to school in a few short weeks, I’m trying to prepare myself for what happens every school year: they get sick.

Within weeks of returning to school last year, my older daughter would get a fever one day and then be fine the next. Despite my nagging to “wash your hands” and “keep your hands out of your mouth,” she missed several days of school.

I don’t want her to be sick of course, but as a working mom, all those sick days at home makes work challenging and adds another layer of stress to my already chaotic life.

It turns out, I’m not alone in feeling the back to school stress, especially when it comes to everything that has to get done. According to a survey by Coupons.com, 50 percent of moms with kids in school say shopping for and packing school lunches makes them feel stressed.

So here’s the good news: there are some easy, healthy back to school tips that can go a long way in helping to keep your kids healthy and you from pulling your hair out. Here are 10.

 

 

1. Don’t overthink healthy back to school lunches

Those photos of beautifully crafted bento boxes for school lunches that fill up your Instagram feed can definitely give you some inspiration, but who has time to make fruit into animal shapes and sandwiches into pinwheels?

Instead, stick to the basics.

Have a list of go-to foods that are healthy and quick, re-purpose leftovers, batch cook ahead of time, and set aside individual portions of grab and go snacks.

Also, focus on whole foods instead of processed foods: fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, beans and legumes, whole grains and calcium-rich foods.

Related: 7 Hacks for Stress-Free School Lunches

2. Teach kids to wash their hands

Kids under the age of 6 in particular get 8 to 10 colds a year, not including the countless fevers, infections and stomach bugs they’ll get this year.

Although it’s probably inevitable that your kids will get sick, one thing you’ll want to do your best to avoid is the flu.

Last year, despite my entire family getting our flu shots, we still got the flu and it was horrible. In kids under 5, the flu can be dangerous, even deadly.

The flu spreads quickly, especially because at school, kids are in close contact.

So one of the best healthy back to school tips to garner is to teach your kids the importance of washing their hands.

Teaching your kids proper hand washing can prevent the spread of infection and cut down on the amount of times they get sick.

Show kids how to wash with warm water and soap, wash all surfaces of their hands including their fingernails and in between their fingers, and wash while singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Also, remind kids to sneeze in their arm—not their hands—to prevent the spread of germs.

3. Don’t forget about healthy back to school snacks

According to a survey published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

Yet studies show eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, prevent weight gain and childhood obesity, reduce the risk for eye and digestive problems, heart disease and stroke, and prevent certain types of cancer.

Of course, when kids eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables it lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout their lifetimes.

So when it comes to healthy back to school snacks, do your best to swap crackers, pretzels and fruit gummies for fruits and vegetables.

 

Looking for crazy, easy ways to get your kids to eat their vegetables? Check out my video:

 

 

4. Add probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods

Another way to boost your child’s immunity is by serving up plenty of foods with probiotics, or the healthy, live microorganisms found in the gut. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and naturally fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and pickles.

It’s also a good idea to include foods rich in prebiotics, which are non-digestible food ingredients that work with probiotics to boost your child’s immunity.

Prebiotic rich foods include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas and Jerusalem artichokes.

5. Making sleep a priority is one of the best healthy back to school tips

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many kids don’t get enough sleep and some get less than their parents think they need. 

Not only can lack of sleep affect your kid’s energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance in school and on the field, sleep deprivation can also affect their weight.

When kids are sleep-deprived, the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack.

Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, making it more likely that your kid will overeat.

Power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and help your kids wind down before bed with a story, prayer and some snuggle time.

5. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions.

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

6. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school.

In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions.

According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

7. Move more

My kids are constantly in motion and although I take them to the park and for bike rides, I still find getting them 60 minutes exercise a day a challenge.

Nevertheless, I do my best to make sure they get some form of exercise in every day.

Exercise has so many benefits for kids, and as it turns out, can improve their gut health and immunity. In fact, a study in the journal Gut shows exercise may diversity gut microbes.

During the dog days of winter or on snow days when you can’t get out, put on music and have a dance party or enjoy a game of Twister.

8. Help kids cope with anxiety

Most healthy back to school tips focus on physical health, but let’s talk about mental health for a second.

According to a June 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, between 2007 and 2012 the amount of children between ages 6 and 7 with anxiety increased by 20 percent.

There are a lot of factors that play into a person’s propensity to develop anxiety and depression like genetics and family history, trauma and environment.

As someone who has had anxiety since childhood, I can tell you it’s not a crutch or a character flaw.

Anxiety is real so recognizing the signs is key.

Teaching kids techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation can all be helpful. If you suspect your child has an anxiety disorder or you simply need help coping, seek out a therapist who can offer treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Related: 5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Makes Kids Happy

9. Make an appointment for an eye exam

Since vision problems can sometimes look like problems with focus and concentration or reading difficulties, and they can go undiagnosed. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a routine eye exam.

Another factor to consider is the effects electronic devices are having on kids’ eye health. According to a 2015 survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 41 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours a day using digital devices.

Digital eye strain can cause burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain, according to AOA.

Research also suggests that the blue light these devices emit may affect vision and lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness down the line.   

Related: 5 Best Foods For Healthy Eyes

10. And finally, one of the best healthy back to school tips? Learn to say “no”

Between homework, after-school activities and coordinating schedules, if you’re like me, you don’t stop all day.

I also find nearly every week there are extras that the schools ask you to help out with like school fundraisers, classroom parties and field trips.

I particular dislike “crazy hair day,” and “silly socks day,” that I just don’t have time for.

My advice is to get good at saying no. Sure, homework is a priority, but running the bake sale? Not so much.

Also, carve out some me-time anywhere you can get it.

Maybe it’s your favorite early morning class at the gym, meeting a friend for coffee on Saturday morning, or just taking 10 minutes to meditate after the kids go to sleep.

Whatever me-time looks like for you, put your oxygen mask on first. It will make you a better mom and better equipped to handle the school year. 

10 Easy and Healthy School Lunch Ideas

10 Easy and Healthy School Lunch Ideas

When it comes to packing a healthy school lunch, do you often find yourself in a rut, relying on the same ho-hum foods every day?

I certainly do.

Call me boring, but in an effort to make things easy for myself and my husband, I cook a large batch of lentil stew on Sunday that lasts most of the week.

We definitely switch things up a bit and use leftover chicken or salmon, make egg salad or crack open a can of sardines, but the key for us is that school lunch is healthy, quick and easy.

The funny thing is that my kids actually don’t seem to mind eating the same school lunches over and over again.

Still, I know that exposing them to a wide variety of foods is important if I want to raise kids who are healthy, adventurous foodies.

So on a quest for creative, easy and healthy school lunches, I found some great options.

All of these ideas were developed from nutritionists, so they have a guaranteed health stamp of approval, and they’re super quick to boot.

Related: 10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch

10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch

10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch

Back to school season is right around the corner—please, contain your excitement! But after you go shopping for clothes, gear and everything else, chances are you’ll be thinking about packing a healthy school lunch every day especially if you (like me) think school lunches served in the cafeteria are some of the worst.

When you pack lunch with the right balance of nutrition, your kids will have the energy and focus they need to make it through the day.

Packing a healthy school lunch everyday is also an opportunity to switch things up and introduce a variety of foods that your kids can grow to love—even if they come home with it untouched at first.

From what foods to include, and which ones to leave out, of your kid’s lunch box, here are my best tips.

1. Start with fruit and vegetables

You might think that the foods you pack are healthy, but there’s some research that shows many parents actually miss the mark.

According to a July 2014 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, only 27 percent of the lunches from more than 600 kids surveyed met at least three of the five National School Lunch Program standards, which include things like including whole grains and cutting sodium.

One of the best tips for packing a healthy school lunch is to start by including a fruit and a vegetable—which should make up 50 percent of your kid’s lunch box. 

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which will  help to satisfy your kid’s hunger and help him feel fuller longer. 

2. Always include protein

Protein is important for your kid’s growth and development and meals with protein keep hunger at bay, balance your child’s blood sugar and give her enough energy to keep up at school.

Protein should make up 1/4 of a healthy school lunch but you’ll want to focus on lean, quality protein sources instead of processed foods like deli meats and cheeses or hot dogs.

Instead, stick with chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs, fish and seafood.

Related:  What Types of Fish Are Safe For Kids?

3. Choose whole grains

Grains should make up about 1/4 of your kid’s lunch box but do your best to focus on whole grains like whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, quinoa or another type of gluten-free grain.

Whole grains have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber, which are stripped from refined grains.

4. Add a source of calcium

The USDA MyPlate recommends milk or sources of dairy with meals because of the calcium kids need for strong teeth and bones. 

If your kids are dairy-free, or you’re trying to avoid dairy, they can still get plenty of calcium from green leafy vegetables, chia seeds and other calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

5. Upgrade your PB&J

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an easy, affordable and a sure-fire way to get your picky eater to eat lunch.

Look at most brands of peanut butter however, and you’ll discover they’re filled with oils, sugar and salt. Most types of jelly and fruit preserves are high in sugar too.

Read labels and look for peanut butter or another type of nut butter with minimal ingredients. I like Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter or Justin’s. Instead of jelly, mash up fresh raspberries for a delicious, fiber-rich option.

6. Switch it up with seasonal eats

Do your best to help your kid “eat the rainbow” and offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, consider including in-season fruits and vegetables which are fresher and can be more affordable.

Cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin and figs are great choices for the back to school season.

Related: 5 Health Benefits of Figs

If your kid is a picky eater however, pack fruits and vegetables you know he’ll eat. After a few weeks, start to add in small amounts (a teaspoon will do) of new fruits and vegetables you’d like him to try.

If you’re consistent, he may eventually come around and they may even become his new favorite foods.

7. Get a cool lunch box

A bento box is a great way to pack a variety of foods and plenty of nutrition into a school lunch that your kid will love.

8. Stick to real food

Most processed, packaged foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and artificial ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce. They also lack fiber and the vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets.

What’s more, experts say the more processed foods you eat and the longer you eat them, the higher your risk for inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and a host of health conditions in the future.

Although you may not be able to completely eliminate processed foods in one fell swoop, try to replace fruit gummy snacks with fresh fruit or a bag of pretzels with seeds, for example.

Related: 5 Healthy After-School Snacks

9. Offer water instead of sugary drinks and juice

Juice boxes and pouches are convenient especially for school lunch but juice—yes, even the organic kind—doesn’t have a place in a child’s diet unless you don’t have access to fresh fruit or your kid won’t eat any fruit.

Drinking water is always a better alternative and a good habit to get your kids into. Yet if they snub plain water, add slices of cucumber, strawberries, or lemon into their water bottles for a little sweetness and hint of flavor.

10. Stick with it

There’s no doubt your kids will be envious of what other kids are eating for lunch, complain that they don’t like what you’re packing, or refuse to eat altogether.

It’s really frustrating and you’ll probably worry that your kid isn’t eating enough but stay consistent. Remember that your goal is to raise healthy kids who are willing to try—and eventually accept—a variety of healthy foods.

Studies show proper nutrition can prevent chronic health conditions, is linked to increase in cognitive function, attention and memory, higher achievement on standardized tests, athletic performance and improved sleep.

Related: 10 Reasons Kids Should Eat Healthy That Have Nothing to Do With Childhood Obesity

That’s not to say you can’t add in a cookie or a dessert, because part of learning how to eat healthy includes balance, but make it a special, occasional treat instead of an everyday thing.

What are some of your tips for packing a healthy school lunch? Let me know in the comments!