Easy Swaps for Healthier School Lunches

Are you looking for ways to make your kids’ school lunches healthier?

10 Easy Swaps for Healthier School Lunches MOMables.comIf you need help in the lunch-packing department, you are in the right place! Helping others pack fresh lunches is all I do!

If you need a few ideas to help you get started, sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll get a free week of ideas

Today, you are here to see 10 ways you can make your lunches healthier, so here we go!

1.  Fruit flavored water versus juices
You might think you’re providing “all the vitamin C” your child needs in that drink, but the reality is that some fruit juices can have just as much sugar as a soda! Even worse, they aren’t made with real juice but from concentrate and sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Try packing fruit-flavored water as a healthier option. A few slices of lemon, lime, and orange will make a glass of cold water even more refreshing! If you really want the water to taste like the fruit, squeeze it first to release some of the juices.

2.  Real fruit versus fruit cups
While there are some options on the market better than others for prepackaged fruit cups, nothing beats packing it fresh! By packing fresh fruit, you will avoid added sugars, acids, and in most cases, HFCS. Take a few moments to slice your own fresh fruit or pack frozen fruit in the lunch box. By lunch, it will be perfectly chilled but not frozen.

3.  A single cookie versus those 100-calorie packs
What’s wrong with a homemade cookie made with real ingredients? My chocolate chip cookie recipe has real ingredients, stays fresh in the lunch box, and my kids love it. Those 100-calorie packs, while low in calories, are high in unidentifiable ingredients.

4.  Homemade lunches versus packaged boxed lunches
Over at the MOMables blog, I’ve done an entire series that breaks down packaged lunches and remakes them with real ingredients. Boxed lunches can hardly be called food. Have you seen the ingredients list? It might just be me, but I am a bit weary of things with long expiration dates.

Making your own is simple and much cheaper. Purchase whole-wheat crackers, real cheese, and fresh deli ham or turkey, and package in your favorite lunch container.

5.  Make your own snacks
I remember when I was a kid, and fruit roll-ups were the new, tasty treat to have for snack and lunches. They were fun and delicious—certainly NOT nutritious. Whipping up homemade ones takes hardly any time, and the oven does the rest! Using fruit gives you natural sweetness. Another inexpensive and kid-favorite snack you can make at home? Granola bars.

6.  Leftovers versus unhealthy cafeteria food
My philosophy is cook once, eat twice! If you’re having pasta for dinner, knowingly make a little extra for lunches the next day. You can do the same with items on the grill, soups, etc. A $10 to $14 thermos container will be your favorite accessory for “thermos Thursdays.” Just because your child’s school has “hot lunch” on the menu doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.

7.  Homemade pizzas versus greasy cafeteria pizza
Pizza is one of the iconic go-to meals. I love it, my husband loves it, and of course my kids do too! You can use a whole-wheat English muffin, Naan bread, or bagel for lunch! Add sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. I love pizza because it’s easy to sneak veggies under the cheese, and it’s delicious at room temperature.

8.  Whole-wheat versus white bread sandwiches
What is the difference between whole-wheat and white bread? Thirty good-for-you nutrients! If you have a picky eater, use white bread on one side of the sandwich and wheat on the other. Tell them one is “sunny-side-up.” Make sure you check the labels, and look for breads that contain the words “whole wheat” and other whole grains such as oats as the first ingredient in the list.

9.  Almond butter versus caramel dipping sauce
My kids love to dip their apple slices in caramel. Who am I kidding; I love it too! Ditch the sugar, and opt for a healthier dip, such as almond butter. By eating almonds or almond butter, you get vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Almonds are a good fiber source and also contain protein. Delicious with fruit and even by the spoonful! Can’t get your kids to eat “nut” butter? Try my homemade Nutella (psst! It’s “nut” free!)

10.  Greek yogurt versus fake pudding
Greek yogurt has a rich, satisfying texture. You can even flavor it with real cocoa powder, honey, or fresh fruit! Greek yogurt typically packs half the sodium and sugar of other regular nonfat yogurts. It’s not only high in protein, it’s also low in carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for the entire family. Better option: 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Pudding.

Making healthy changes can be overwhelming. I often tell MOMables subscribers to do one thing at a time until it’s part of the routine.  Trust me, I know it’s difficult to manage kids, a full-time job, extracurricular activities, and making healthy meals for your family.  Remember that Rome was not built in a day, so be easy on yourself.


Recipes You May Also Like

About MOMables - Laura

Mom to 3 kids, obsessed with coffee, meal planning, and helping you cook fresh meals for your family fast!