I get it, believe me. School mornings are busy! And as much as we love sharing healthy, homemade lunch box snack recipe ideas, I’m totally no-shame when it comes to a pantry full of store-bought snacks that I can pop into my kids’ backpacks or lunch bags in a second.
If you’re with me, check out these ideas for making some classic lunch box snacks just a little healthier. Whether you’re looking for a few more vitamins, more fiber, more protein, or more sugar, just changing out your go-to snack can make a big difference.
Your kids might even find a new favorite.
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Related: New Trader Joe’s snacks kids will love
Instead of Granola Bars…Try Kids Protein Bars
Granola bars vary in nutritional content, but the big brands are often pretty high in sugar and not so high on nutrients. Instead, consider a lower-sugar kids’ protein bar, which my kids like to have after school and before activities.
We recently tried thinkKIDS protein bars which provide 7g of protein and 4g of sugar in each bar. It’s easy, and with flavors like Cookies & Crème, Cinnamon Sugar Cookie and our favorite, Vanilla Cupcake, I know it won’t come back uneaten at the end of the day.
Other options include RX Bars Kids which a lot of parents like for simple ingredients, no gluten, no dairy, no soy, and no added sugar. (The 9g of sugar occurs naturally in the fruit.) Also, to be perfectly honest, the taste isn’t for everyone. Stacie’s kids like them. Mine…not so much.
And because we know a lot of our readers like CLIF Kid Zbars, be aware that they’re more like a granola bar than a protein bar, offering just 2g protein and 11g sugar.
Instead of Yogurt…Try Greek yogurt
In our roundup of 10 high protein snacks for kids you can pick up at the grocery store, Georgia raved about Greek yogurt. So has Stacie. And so do I! And we’re all big fans of Fage.
Compared with the popular brands of kids’ regular yogurt which have around 4-5g protein per serving, Fage Total Greek Yogurt Split Cups offer 11g of protein per container of 5% yogurt, 12g for the 2% yogurt. It isn’t low in sugar though — you’ll get 11g in each fruit flavor, with the exception of the honey (of course, my own kids’ favorite) which has 29g sugar. Wow.
I may have to start nudging them back to cherry and blueberry — though at least the split cup means my kids don’t have to use all of that honey.
I’m also a big fan of Chobani Greek Yogurt, by the way, and in addition to their Chobani Kids Yogurt, and they’ve just introduced Chobani: A Hint Of… which has about half the sugar (9g total) of similar brands, in flavors like A Hint of Monterey Strawberry and A Hint of Madagascar Vanilla & Cinnamon.
Plus, Chobani is a seriously cool company and I like how they do business, so I love supporting them.
Related: 4 easy, delicious, healthy yogurt snack recipes for the whole family
Instead of Fruit Snacks…Try Whole Fruit Squeeze Pouches
Whole fruit is obviously our best bet, but it’s not always an option. (Ever seen a banana that’s been in backpack all day?) Lots of parents turn toward fruit snacks, which are super popular with kids and do offer some nutrients beyond what you get from other sweet treats.
Still, it’s good to note that even the popular organic fruit snacks have about 11g of sugar in that teeny pouch, and no discernable nutrients besides perhaps Vitamin C. So fruit snacks are more like a candy than a fruit.
Instead, try pouches like GoGoSqueez pouches — you’re getting real, whole fruit in a form factor kids love. You’ll still getting that sugar (generally from the fruit; not added sugar) but you’ll also get some fiber and vitamins.
You’ll also find plenty of decent options from brands like Happy Family organic fruit and veggie blend squeeze pouches, with lots of flavor combos kids will like — all without knowing they’re eating kale.
Another option: split the difference between fruit and yogurt with Gogo Squeez Yogurtz fruit and yogurt blend pouches. They give kids about 4g protein. Stonyfield Farm Fruit and Yogurt Pouches are another kid-favorite, and they add 5g protein to your kid’s sweet, fruity lunch box snack.
Related: What happened when I stopped worrying about feeding my picky eater.
Instead of Chips…Try Healthier Crunchy Snacks
We all know that chips — delicious, wonderful, greasy, awesome chips — are basically empty calories. But if it’s crunch you’re after, there are so many great options these days that help make that lunch box snack a little healthier.
While we’re fans of homemade roasted chickpea snacks, it’s nice to find a store-bought version in The Good Bean Roasted Chickpea Snacks for when you just can’t go DIY. These high-protein snacks offer 5-6g per serving, and come in 7 flavors that are gluten-free, nut-free certified (except for the sea salt flavor), vegan, kosher, and non-GMO. Chickpeas truly pack a nutritional punch: Besides the protein, they are also high fiber and contain lots of healthy folate.
If your kids really love a chip chip though, there are lots of protein chips that make things a little healthier. Protein Crisps by Pop Corners come highly recommended. This soy based chip has 10g of plant-based protein per serving. They come in 3 spicy flavors — wasabi ginger and honey, hot buffalo, and sweet and smokey BBQ, so your kids have to be into those flavors.
If you really have to go with a classic clip, opt for a brand like Terra Chips over classic potato chips. It’s not like they’re equal to eating a plate of steamed veggies, but they do eliminate gluten, cholesterol, trans fats, and artificial flavors, and they’re GMO-free.
Top photo: Photo by Mustafa Bashari on Unsplash