Hey there, parents who want to cut down on processed snacks! It’s back to school season, and you know what that means—time to stress daily about what to pack the picky kiddos for snacks and lunches. I don’t want you to stress over food, that’s why I’m sharing 12 tips for packing unprocessed snacks for school lunches. I’m big on staying away from ultra-processed foods, but I know it can be difficult. Ain’t nobody looking for more ways to stay busy during back to school season. I’m on a mission to make school snacks time both healthy for the kids, and easy for the parents, so buckle up as I share the realm of unprocessed (and minimally processed) snacks that have been keeping my kids (mostly) happy for years.
I have to take a moment to say that we aren’t a family who only eats homemade snacks and healthy foods all the time. It’s all about moderation and I’m here for the donuts and fast food from time to time. I firmly believe that if I withhold all junk food then the kids will end up rebelling in a bad way later on in life.
However, when it comes to fueling my kids’ brains for school, I lean on this list of easy and healthy school snack ideas that don’t take too much effort on my part!
12 Tips for Packing Unprocessed Snacks for School Lunches
1. Don’t Overthink Snacks
Just because some people on the internet make super cute themed bento style snack boxes, doesn’t mean you have to. Unless you want to! If that is you, go for it. Otherwise, stick to simple.
2. Strive for a Combination of Fiber, Protein, and Healthy Fats
This trifecta will leave your kids feeling full longer and help stabilize blood sugar. A perfect combination to keep kids focused and ready for learning. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the importance of eating fiber, protein and healthy fats. I’m constantly reminding my kids of the following: fiber will help you have comfortable poops (I have three boys so we talk about poop a lot), protein will keep you full and help you grow strong, fats coat your brain to keep you smart.
These peanut butter applies with chia seeds are a great example. Even though it is messy, my kids love these peanut butter apple “cookies”. Top with another apple slice for an apple “cookie sandwich” for less of a mess.
3. Empower Kids to Help Pack the Snacks
If you allow your kids to decide what they want to eat for a snack, then they are much more likely to eat it. Keep snacks where they can reach them so they can help pack snacks and lunches every day.
4. Stick to Whole Grains Over White Flour
Swap out those granola bars filled with added sugar and ultra-processed ingredients for wholesome options like homemade granola bars or whole-grain tortilla chips. These fiber-rich delights will keep your little ones satisfied and full of energy for their next exciting quest.
Not going to make your own granola bars? Try these minimally processed versions: MadeGood bars
5. Keep it Simple with Fresh Fruit and Veggies:
What better way to sweeten snack time than with fresh fruit or simple veggies. Ditch the fruit juice and opt for whole, unprocessed fruits like apple slices, oranges, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, sliced bell peppers and dried fruit. The natural sugars in fresh fruit come with essential vitamins and minerals, offering a burst of flavor and health benefits for your growing adventurers.
6. Peanut Butter is a Powerhouse Protein:
Peanut butter, a favorite among young children, is a fantastic source of healthy fats and protein. Pair it with apple slices, carrot sticks, or whole-grain crackers for a delicious and satisfying snack. Look for peanut butter with minimal additives and no added sugar for the best choice.
My favorite minimally processed peanut butter: Justin’s
7. Add Minimally Processed Cheese:
If you don’t have kids with dairy issues, throw some raw cheddar into the mix. These days you can find raw cheddar in big box grocery stores. I like to skip the plastic wrapped cheese sticks and put a couple cubes of raw cheddar with minimally processed crackers and turkey pepperoni to make little lunchables. These protein-packed snacks are excellent for supporting growth spurts and brain development in school-age children.
My favorite raw cheddar: Organic Valley
8. Skip the Individual Cups of Yogurt and Send Reusable Containers of Greek Yogurt:
Whole milk Greek yogurt is our go-to when it comes to yogurt. I like to skip the flavored versions in favor of making our own flavors. Scoop some Greek yogurt into a small reusable container and top with chia seeds, fresh fruit, nuts, berries, and a drizzle of honey for a real treat.
Pro tip: As much as I love this as a snack, I actually tend to offer this as an after school snack or dessert since I hate having to clean the leftover yogurt. It’s so hot these days that I do anything I can to avoid smelling old dairy products.
9. Make Your Own Homemade Trail Mix:
Better yet, have the kids make their own trail mix. Buy nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips and let your kids create their favorite combination of ingredients. This way, they’ll be more willing to munch on this nutrient-packed treat.
10. Hard-Boiled Egg-cellence:
Hard-boiled eggs are a fantastic protein source and can be prepared in advance for easy snack options. They are packed with essential nutrients that contribute to a well-rounded diet and healthy growth for your little ones.
11. Lean into Nuts and Seeds
You don’t have to make a your own trail mix to include nuts and seeds into your kid’s diet. Pack some sunflower seeds, a handful of almonds, or another favorite nut for your kids to munch on during snack time. This is a great snack that will leave your child feeling ready to take on the school day.
12. Send Sweet Treats Occasionally
I’m a big believer that food should be fun, not stressful. That being said, a lot of kids do get jealous of their friends who always bring the “good snacks”. It’s okay to occasionally pack a cookie or a muffin, especially a homemade one with less sugar and some sneaky protein.
The Bottom Line:
Packing healthy unprocessed snacks and minimally processed foods for school lunches doesn’t have to be a challenge. With a little creativity and knowledge of the best snacks to choose from, you can provide your children with a variety of delicious snacks that contribute to their overall health and well-being. Say goodbye to packaged snacks and embrace the world of real food that keeps your little adventurers energized and ready for their next meal!
So, grab those lunch boxes, fill them with goodness, and don’t forget the ice pack to keep everything fresh. Make snack time a thrilling journey through the land of healthy and fun snacks! Your kids will thank you for the tasty treats that make their school days even more exciting. Happy snacking!
Stick around for more back to school inspiration!
Check out these posts to get you in the spirit:
- Back to School Teacher Gift with Free Printable
- Easy Back to School Breakfast Ideas
- DIY Uncrustables
- Build a Lunch Printable
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