It’s that time of year again, and this time around, #BackToSchool is bigger and better than ever. With over 1.6 million posts on Instagram using the #BackToSchool hashtag, this time of year brings with it both excitement and chaos. Getting school supplies is one thing, but packing up lunch for your kiddos for the next 300 days, that’s another! Well, have no fear. I have scoured the store shelves and have rounded up 12 new back-to-school healthy lunchbox and snack food finds!
1. Pizza please
It’s pretty hard to find a little kiddo who doesn’t love pizza. So, imagine this, classic hummus blended with fresh pizza inspired flavors including herbs and spices like fresh basil and oregano. When I found out about the Sabra Pizza Hummus Singles, I thought that there couldn’t be a more perfect combination. The single serving 2 ounce containers pair well with pita chips and vegetables and are easy to slip into a lunchbox or backpack for on-the-go mini meals and snacks. Also, I bet you didn’t know that two heaping spoonfuls of hummus a day is all you need to reach your weekly recommendation of 1 ½ cups of beans. Made with chickpeas, the number one ingredient in hummus, these nutrient-rich beans are both a legume and a vegetable.
2. The better-for-you bread
If you’ve never looked at the ingredient panel on standard, widely available white or “whole-grain” breads on your store shelves, you may be shocked by what you see. With ingredients like modified wheat starch, enriched bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup or even this doozy: azodicarbonamide, which, in a nutshell, is described as dough conditioner, you may start to think twice about what you are eating. By contrast, organic baked bread is a simple combination of a few ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, oil and yeast. With convenience being key, especially when packing up lunches, you may be pleasantly surprised that there is now an organic bread option made just for little kiddos. Rudi’s Organic Kids Soft White and Kids Soft Wheat Bread will be on store shelves nationally this September, and the best part is that it has a soft, fluffy texture and small, thin slices, making it ideal for kid-sized sandwiches. Made with simple organic ingredients, free of synthetic preservatives, GMOs and chemical additives, this is a better option you can feel good about feeding to your kids. Grilled cheese please!
3. Easy to prepare pasta!
Image: Three Bridges
Imagine making a delicious lunch for your kids in under five minutes. A dream come true, right! If you are looking for something more “meal-like” for your kiddo’s lunch or if you feel they are outgrowing sandwiches and need a bit more fuel for after-school sports and activities, then pasta may be the perfect lunch. I love the Spinach & Cheese Tortellini from Three Bridges. Made with fresh, natural ingredients, this tortellini delivers 13 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per serving. You can even bump up the fiber content and prepare this simple Vegetable Salad using the tortellini. Remember, pasta doesn’t always have to be served warm!
4. Super Squeeze to the rescue
Letting your little ones serve themselves is such a great joy for parents everywhere. An easier option to keep things mess-free and nutritious is using Horizon Super Squeeze pouches with a creamy taste of blended milk and fruit made with Horizon Organic milk, each pouch comes in at 100 calories, contains 5 grams of protein and is an excellent source of calcium. With three different varieties, in Mixed Berry Burst, Strawberry Bash and Orange Blast, these pouches will add flavor to your kids’ lunchboxes each day of the week.
5. Peanut butter puffs
Image: Nature’s Path
Open up my pantry and you will find one of my son’s favorite snack cereals: the Nature’s Path’s EnviroKidz Panda Puffs™ peanut butter flavor. We love snacking on them as a side with breakfast, or I combine them with raisins and make a trail mix for him when we go to the park. Packed with 9 grams of whole grains, these puffs are organic, gluten-free, trans-fat free and are non-GMO. I also love when brands give back. One percent of sales goes towards endangered species, habitat conservation and environmental education for kids, including 1 percent For The Planet.
6. Bean boost
I am sure you remember your cheese stained fingers after eating a bag of this popular snack with your sandwich at lunch. But back then, highlighting ingredients in our food wasn’t as mainstream and quite frankly did not seem as important. If you looked at the popular snack’s label, you will find two ingredients that frankly do not belong in any food: partially hydrogenated soybean oil and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Don’t “cheat” your kids out of a healthy and tasty cheesy puffed treat that is slightly reminiscent of your younger years. The Beanitos Original Bean Puff in Real Cheesy flavor will add a crunchy kick to your kid’s lunchbox. The healthy twist on these puffs is that they are made with beans, which naturally gives this snack a nutrition boost containing 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein in each serving.
7. Popped to perfection
Image: KIND Snacks
Ancient grains are making a comeback into today’s diet. Grains are a wonderful way to boost the nutrition profile of any meal. And now you can find them all wrapped up in the KIND Healthy Grains Popped bars. The base for the Healthy Grains bars include gluten free oats, millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, which provide at least 18g of whole grains per bar. The new popped bars contain a new super grain, sorghum, a cereal grain that grows tall like corn. When popped, these bars add a whole new element to snacking and once they are combined with other sweet and salty flavors, you have a new opportunity to give your kids a sweet snack without artificial colors or flavors. The Salted Caramel bars are baked with caramel chunks and sea salt to deliver a classic popcorn taste.
8. Dip and scoop
One part gluten-free pretzels, one part nut butter sounds like a great treat to throw into your kid’s lunch boxes that is not only better for your little one but also tastes great. Perfect for dipping and scooping, Justin’s brand new Snack Packs are a portable and delicious snack that come in under 210 calories and in three different flavor options: Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, Classic Almond Butter and Maple Almond Butter. I happen to shop at Target often and have learned about their Made to Matter — Handpicked by Target™ campaign which brings together 31 leading natural, organic and sustainable brands all made with simple, recognizable ingredients.
9. Family and freezer friendly
Image: Saffron Road
There has been a surge in popularity amongst consumers who are looking for healthier frozen foods to feed their families. One of the main reasons is convenience. Frozen foods are a common staple in most homes and make for quick meals and snacks. For a lot of kids who are gluten intolerant, frozen, breaded meats aren’t always a lunchbox option. This is where the Saffron Road Chicken Nuggets make their way into your home. They are prepared in a crispy gluten free batter and deliver 17 grams of protein in each serving. The chickens used are humanely raised on family farms and are also fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet.
10. Cocoa crunch
Image: Somersault Life Company
If you are looking for a healthy, crunchy, chocolatey treat for your kiddos, check out Somersaults Dutch Cocoa flavor! Somersaults are a nourishing snack fueled by the power of sunflower seeds. They are nut-free, so they’re great for the classroom. Each crunchy bite is made with simple, all-natural ingredients that you can feel good about sharing with your family. One serving of the Dutch Cocoa flavor boasts 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and only 4 grams of sugar!
11. Meat matters
The origin of our food should be as important as the destination. When serving your kids sandwiches, deli meats are a simple source of protein. As I always say, check your ingredient list and you may be surprised to find caramel coloring, modified corn starch and even sodium phosphate (a food additive) in most of your store bought deli meat options. From turkey to ham to roast beef or chicken breast, the key when it comes to deli meats, or any meat for that matter, is that the animals are raised without the use of antibiotics. This is where it starts at Applegate. The end product should be void of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Since ingredients do matter, you can feel confident feeding your family deli meats from Applegate as they come from vegetarian-fed, humanely-raised animals with no antibiotics ever.
12. Non-dairy delight
Yogurt is a staple in most households, and the preference for Greek yogurt is quite high due to its creamy and thick texture. But what happens when your little one is lactose intolerant and is on a dairy–free diet? While there are other options like coconut or almond based yogurts, they do not shine in terms of protein. Check your labels folks… 1 sweet little gram. I am not going to mention the sugar in the fruit-flavored ones simply because it’s just too much imbalance as the protein is virtually non-existent. With that said, there are new proteins making their way to the market and there is a strong shift towards plant–based proteins. Pea protein is amongst the most popular. When I heard about the Daiya Greek Style yogurt made with pea protein, I was excited. Not only does it contain 10 percent more calcium than popular dairy Greek style yogurts that dominate the market, it also contains 10 percent of your daily value of iron as opposed to zero percent in the popular dairy based options. Daiya’s Greek Style Yogurt comes in four delicious varieties too (Peach, Black Cherry, Blueberry and Strawberry), so your kiddos are sure to find a flavor they love!