In stark contrast to some of my recipes, these ideas focus on healthy replacements for common food items for kids. Many of the traditional snacks and lunches that we enjoyed as kids are high in fat, sugars and sodium. Here are a few ways to keep your child healthy while still providing foods that are delicious and rich in the things that their growing bodies need. And, you’ll find that you save a little money too.
Make your own packaged lunches
We have all seen the little pre-packaged lunches with the slices of meat and cheese, crackers and sometimes a dessert item. While seeming convenient and healthy, they are loaded with fats and sodium that your child doesn’t need. You can make your own packaged lunches with whole grain crackers, meat that you cook at home and cheese. You can even throw in a cookie or two!
On your next trip to a retail store like Target, get a package or two of the plastic lunch containers that have sections in them. They are very inexpensive and reusable (staying green is good). You can also pick up some great whole grain crackers there too.
For the meat, boil a couple of chicken breasts. This might sound bland to some of us adults, but kids love boiled chicken. You can roast them if you prefer, or even roast a turkey breast. Be careful how much you salt them, as kids do not have the same taste for salt that adults do, and the crackers are likely to have salt in them. Slice the meat (against the grain) into thin medallions and include about four in each meal package.
The cheese is whatever you and your children prefer. If you can get your kids to eat low fat cheese, then great. My kids won’t touch the stuff. “Get real cheese or not at all” is what they tell me.
Throw in a little dessert item and you’re done! You can make a whole weeks worth at one time too. I would assemble them daily though, keeping the items in separate storage bags in the refrigerator, so the cheese and crackers do not get soggy by Thursday.
Whole Milk is High in Fat
I grew up on whole milk, as did many people. Our parents wanted us to have healthy bones and teeth and we do. But, we could have the same healthy bones and teeth with 1% milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children older than 2 years old should drink 1% milk. Regardless of the fat content, all milk has the same amount of vitamins and minerals.
A lot of applesauce has added sugars and flavorings. You can make applesauce yourself very easily, and for much less money. If you prefer not to, just look for the natural or unsweetened apple sauces.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
The classic PBJ, if made with white bread, regular peanut butter and jelly, is loaded with fats and sugars that children do not need. Not only that, they won’t notice them missing when you use whole grain bread, natural peanut butter and a fruit spread lower in sugar.
Oh how I love my chips. My doctor tells me to stay away from them. Instead, most doctors recommend popcorn! Give your kids a bag of popcorn and they are perfectly happy to munch away. Popcorn is high in fiber and is a whole grain food!
OK, this one is a harder sell. My kids can smell a healthy hot dog from two miles away. But, once they get used to them, they like them just fine.
These are just a few simple tips to help you and your kids stay healthy. Every little bit helps, and some of these really will save you some money. You might also have some fun making lunches with your children.