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Favorite Healthy School Snacks to Pack for your kids??

Looking for new healthy snacks and lunch ideas for this new school year. Last year was a bit mundane- same thing rotated around. Would love some new ideas. So, what are you favorite healthy snacks and lunch ideas your kids actually like to eat?

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  1. Ugh, it's such a trial trying to keep lunch interesting.
    I've been mixing up a small container of nuts (smoked almonds are the current fav), dried fruit, 1 little piece of dark chocolate and maybe some breadstick pieces or goldfish for my little guys recess snack. At the moment this is completely devoured. Lunch is mostly a honey sandwich, fresh fruit & cookie though. I can get him to eat a small salad (cherry toms, carrot sticks, tiny centre leaves of a cos lettuce) and ranch maybe once a week. I found using a variety of bento boxes, condiment containers & skewers (to make fruit kebabs) makes him more likely to eat his lunch. When the weather cools I'll try mac & cheese or noodles in a thermos. None of this is too time consuming. Yet.
    I'd love some other ideas though.


    1. This is a popular topic this time of year:

      ...one specifically on muffins for school lunches: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565795
      ...and one I started around Christmas when I was in a school lunch rut: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/474790

      HTH :)

      1. perhaps with a cold-insulated lunchbox:
        deconstructed parfait with yogurt, fruit and granola to mix at lunch
        hummus with pita
        pita pockets stuffed with fillings of choosing
        leftover whole wheat pizza (dinner and tomorrow's lunch)
        leftover polenta squares with marinara dipping sauce (dinner and tomorrow's lunch)
        chili (good cold) with cornbread
        chilled dumplings
        marinated grilled veggies (if the kids will go for them)
        hard-boiled eggs with crackers

        1. Today my daughter is toting applesauce and some wheat bunnies crackers for her snack. For lunch, leftover buttered orzo, rotisserie chicken and baby carrots. We do sandwiches on wheat, sliced fruits, hummus and carrots/crackers/Syrian bread, cheese & crackers, hard-cooked eggs . . . pretty boring, but she requests the same things over and over. Not many veggies b/c she doesn't eat many veggies.

          I realized last year that it wasn't my daughter who was bored with the rotation, it was me!


          2 Replies
          1. re: gansu girl

            "I realized last year that it wasn't my daughter who was bored with the rotation, it was me! "

            Yep - my son's school is nut-free, and he has Celiac. We don't buy too many cold cuts, so he was having cheese sandwiches on gluten-free bread everyday. Yuk. But he was fine with it. He'd make all sorts of disgusting variations, like cheese with saurkraut and BBQ sauce. Maybe it was just that I was pregnant, but it seemed awful. but he ate it if he came up with it. If I came up with it, like the brie sandwich with blackberry preserves - he hated it. Yesterday he had a croque monsieur - lightened up quite a bit with nitrate-free low fat ham, part skim mozzerella and aged gruyere grated on top. He LOVED it. He always takes fresh fruit for the side, and I make sure to pack fragile fruit so it doesn't get bruised.

            In my attempts to reduce the cheese diet, we tried leftover pasta, veggie or turkey chili, black bean dip with baked chips, hummus, sushi (filled with shrimp or veggies - huge hit), turkey hot dogs, hamburgers (we make extra patties, freeze them and then microwave in the morning - he eats it), pizza sandwiches (roasted tomato sauce, pizza seasoning and cheese), muffins

            1. re: gansu girl

              So as an update - here's daughter's idea of a "crazy" lunch idea - Applegate farms bologna (we use all unpreserved lunch meats when we do have lunch meats) - get this! "rolled in a [whole wheat] tortilla, mom!" No cheese. No condiments. Revolutionary, no?

            2. This weekend we're going to be making pizza on a stick, sans pepperoni.
              The idea enchanted my daughter and anything we make together means there's a higher likelihood that it will be eaten.

              We're in something of a rut, too. PB&J and turkey sandwiches hold pride of place, but this past week a bagel and cream cheese was met with excitement. I mix up the sides a little bit more. Edamame is usually welcome as is yogurt in any flavor but "red," the more exotic, the better. During the winter when fresh fruit isn't that interesting, I'll make up a home-made trail mix like toastnjam suggested or send canned lychees or other Asian fruit.

              Since my daughter's school emphasizes healthy lunches and doesn't allow cookies and cake at lunch I save the cookies and chips for after-school snack. She has a heavy schedule of sports and muisc most afternoons so the sugar rush and carb energy are very useful then.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rockycat

                Love the pizza-on-a-stick! I'm definately going to try those! Thanks.

              2. My mother used to make homemade black bean or veggie burgers. She would pack a whole wheat bun and the burger separately. In the morning, we were allowed to choose our condiments and pack them in tiny containers.

                1. A blog-acquaintance (blogquaintance?) of mine put her kids' lunch schedule on her blog recently and I think she's got a great strategy: rotate TYPES of lunches, not specific meals. That leaves room for variety but keeps the crazy-making-ness of packing lunches to a minimum.


                  1. i would love to include some of the suggestions here but they would all be returned (yuk factor) and keeping the food cold is difficult. We've tried many different insulated lunch boxes but none work satisfactorily esp. for things like yoghurt so recs wold be welcome. Pizza on a stick looks like it could be a winner though. I wonder how well it would freeze.
                    At the moment my 6 y.o. is begging me to buy lunchables because some of friends eat them. I would love it if he was begging me to give him hummus in his lunch box :)

                    A friend of mine uses a magnetic lunch chart from Martha Stewart where her kids choose their own lunches for the week from a list of things they like. It works well for her.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: toastnjam

                      I use an insulated lunch bag from Target (the pink camoflage this year, dontcha know?) and put an ice block in the bottom. Usually it's still cool by 5 PM. I've had no complaints about dairy contents not holding up. Actually, I cheat. I use one of those refreezable flexible ices that you use for aches and pains. I put it in a baggie to protect against spills and I can either rinse the baggie or replace it as necessary.

                      Read the entire blog entry on the Pizza on a Stick. Zoe talks about freezing the baked product and refrigerating the assembled, unbaked pizza.

                      If you have to do something Lunchable-style, try to assemble your own, if you have the time. They've managed to lower the fat in some of them but the sodium is still way too high. That's mostly due to the processed meat in them. You can do a much healthier version with your own ingredients. It may not have the cool factor you son craves but, hey, beats hypertension any day. :-)

                        1. re: rockycat

                          Yep picking out the lunchbox is an annual ritual for us, too. They get more sophisticated each year. I use a HARD, SMALL (about 2X3) plastic ice pack (have had bad luck with those soft baggie-style ones and I get them at the dollar store) and this year we also got an insulated bowl ($10/Target) with a little spoon in its lid that you can microwave in and claims it stays hot. Since it's still pretty warm, we haven't tested it yet. But it's a cool little item.

                          Hot stuff usually is soup (either homemade or a higher end commercial), leftover pasta, leftover pad thai, rice and beans, or mac and cheese WITH a side of fresh veggies (carrots, celery sticks, cucumber, etc.) and a fresh fruit. Always. Sandwiches or wraps when I don't send hot stuff--whatever she's in the mood for, but I always sneak some tomato, spinach, sprouts or whatever for a nutritional boost and I never use processed commercial lunch meats. ONCE in awhile, a cookie or other treat, but not everyday.

                          Talk to them about what they want and even let them help with preparation if you have the time and patience.

                          Our school lunches are awful, so I don't ever buy them and I think Lunchables should be outlawed.

                      1. Ugh, that is the only downside of back to school.

                        Mine adore bagels with cream cheese, leftover pizza, leftover fried rice, leftover pasta or asian noodles, bean and cheese burritos, chili in a thermos, cheese and crackers, savory muffins, etc. They get an entree, fruit and yogurt or a cheese stick.

                        Those pizza rolls look awesome and I will for sure try them soon.

                        1. As far as snacks go, I just tried out the Kashi peanut butter granola bars for my first graders and they loved them. I also tried out those mini rice cakes that come in different flavors but those did not go over well. The usual snack rotation in the lunch box is cheese crackers, goldfish, ritz crackers, pretzel sticks, Pirate's booty, so I've been hunting the aisles looking for new ideas.
                          For mains, we do sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, soup in thermoses (canned alphabet vegetable soup and Italian wedding or homemade lentil), sesame noodles made w/ whole wheat spaghetti, bagel and cream cheese, sometimes w/ smoked salmon, apples w/ peanut butter, yogurt.
                          For fruit or veggie- usually fresh berries, apples, applesauce or strawberry sauce, mandarin oranges from the jar, carrots with ranch dressing

                          1. At my daughter's school you have to make snacks for a week. We usually make sushi balls. That's cooking sushi rice and then seasoning w/ rice vinegar like you would for rice to make sushi. Then you add smoked salmon and some cut up seaweed. I'd add seasame seeds but I usually leave those out in case there are any allergies. They are really good, best at room temp. Another thing I found on the internet is to mix applesauce, wheat germ, & cinamon. Spread the mixture on a graham cracker. You could also put cream cheese on the graham cracker. I tested it out and I was really surprised at how good the crackers were.

                            1. This year I came up with a great lunch solution....

                              In my freezer I have a bunch of mini tart shells, and every time we have left overs (curry, soup, pasta, mashed potatoes, shredded cheese + veg with an egg) I toss them into the shells, bake them off making 4-6 at a time. I used some for a day or two and then freeze the rest.. and I have a great supply of assorted go to mini quiche and tarts.

                              The great thing is if you pop them in frozen (weather depending) they are thawed by lunch, and if it's winter then i thaw it the day before. She loves the variety and it's really easy.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: CookieGal

                                "The great thing is if you pop them in frozen (weather depending) they are thawed by lunch, and if it's winter then i thaw it the day before. She loves the variety and it's really easy."

                                This is why I keep all sandwich bread in the freezer - make the sandwich on frozen bread and by lunchtime it's thawed but still cool.

                                I used to nanny, including making lunches, and some of her favorites were very simple - a baggie of cherry tomatoes, or straweberries, or pomegranate seeds. Tomatoes chopped with avocado and sprinkled with olive oil, garlic powder (if they like) and a little salt is good and tastes best room temp.

                              2. A lot of good ideas and creative people here :D one important thing to keep in mind is to avoid giving your little ones high-fat snacks and high-calorie snacks. These can include cookies, chips, candy, doughnuts, fruit drinks, soda, etc. Also I would advice to limit snacks to just 60 to 150 calories so that they don’t turn into an extra meal for your kids.

                                Laurent • community manager | Materne

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: gogolaurent

                                  As I'm sure everyone already knows, sugar and trans fat can be a problem, but good fat is really important for kids.

                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                    And, considering that my kid has afterschool sports 4 days a week (starting anywhere from 5 PM to after 7 PM), she needs calories and carbs to keep going until dinner. I just try to make sure that the calories are coming with some useful vitamins attached to them.

                                2. muffins, savory and sweet...savory made with cheese, and ham or turkey or grilled veggies. and sweet made with peanut butter and jelly or berries. I use this recipe and it's very versitile: http://busycooks.about.com/od/quickbr...

                                  I sub regular bran flakes without the raisins, so I can make it savory or sweet. I put the additions in right before baking.