It’s already back to the season! Can you believe it?! With back to school comes life back to routines and schedules, but also the life of grab-and-go lunches, cafeteria food, and fast food that does little to nourish kids’ bodies — and their growing minds
Below, we are sharing 12 of our favorite ways to swap junk for real, wholesome foods. We hope that this list helps to guide your kids to use their power of choice in this new school year — and beyond — as you work together to find alternatives and simply swap out the junk for healthier versions.
Tip: Get your kids involved in the process. Talk about their lunch plan in advance, and if they are old enough, get them to make their own lunches.
Swap This for That: Back to School Edition
- Swap deli meat for organic sliced meat: Processed deli meat is loaded with nitrates, sodium, fat, and preservatives. Instead, swap it for sliced meat such as organic grilled chicken with a bed of lettuce and some cucumbers or peppers.
- Swap Lunchables for a homemade bento box: Get an empty bento box where your kids can add a collection of cut-up fruits, vegetables, and protein, such as fiber-rich beans, or sliced meat to the box where they make their own personal mix-and-match lunch.
- Swap fruit gummy snacks for real fruit: One of the worst snacks for kids, swap high-sugar and processed fruit snacks for wholesome fruits. Loaded with corn syrup, artificial flavors, dyes, and sugar, gummy fruit snacks are basically candy marketed as fruit and that is not ok! And those little pouches only offer a handful of gummies where kids often want more and more and more! Opt for fresh, wholesome fruit this summer (and beyond) that’s packed with fiber to help your kids stay full longer and not crash or want another gummy packet right after they eat one!
- Swap white bread for a sprouted bread: There is nothing inherently wrong with bread, our modern manufacturing has made it a highly processed food that is stripped from fibers, bleached to appeal to consumers, and now contains a high glycemic index. The definition of the glycemic index of a food is a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise. When the glycemic index is high — caused by white bread — it quickly digests, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and no nutritional value. Instead, opt for a Sprouted Bread, such as Ezekiel’s Food for Life (usually refrigerated in the grocery store) or Dave’s Killer Bread.
- Swap Goldfish for organic crackers: Goldfish crackers are loaded with sodium that over time can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure or heart problems. They are also ultra-processed, made with enriched wheat flour (yes, they are not gluten-free) — meaning whole grains were stripped from their nutrients where artificial vitamins and minerals are then added. Instead, swap them for a healthy cracker that contains whole grain flour and contains at least three grams of fiber per serving such as Mary’s Gone Crackers that are minimally processed, made with organic whole ingredients, plant-based ingredients, non-GMO, no preservatives, and gluten-free!
- Swap fruit-filled yogurt or pudding cups for Greek whole-fat yogurt: Yogurt is actually a fantastic high-protein snack for kids but Big Food loads it up with artificial fruit preserves and even with candy, making it worse than ice cream or cookies! Opt for a Greek whole-fat yogurt instead and layer it with cut-up fruit and low-sugar granola for a homemade, healthy parfait.
- Swap fruit-infused water instead of juice boxes: Schools are filled with sugary juice boxes that they offer to kids and it’s no wonder kids can’t concentrate! Instead, add in fruits like oranges, lemons, blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers, etc to their water to add a natural freshness and taste. When infusing water with fruits, veggies, or herbs, they will release flavor faster if infused at room temperature. Then, all you have to do is to put the water in the refrigerator to prevent it from spoiling. How easy is that?!
- Swap fruit cups for real fruit: Another offender is the dreaded fruit cups. Drowning in sugar and preservatives, fruit cups are a sad excuse for fruit that is just as sweet as most desserts. Instead, give them whole fruits, focusing on what they love and slowly integrating new varieties.
- Swap candy for trail mix: Candy is not a snack and it’s shocking that they are available in school vending machines or in cafeterias where kids have easy access. Instead, swap candy for a trail mix that kids can blend at home using protein-rich nuts and some dried fruit.
- Swap processed mac and cheese for homemade mac and cheese: Boxed mac and cheese is extremely processed that’s loaded with sodium, high in empty calories, and contains chemicals like phthalates, a hormone-disrupting chemical that has been linked to birth defects, developmental problems, and altered thyroid functions. These chemicals are so bad that they have been banned from rubber duck toys but they have not been banned from the packaging touching our foods? Make a change tonight by making our healthy version made from squash and plant-protein pasta.
- Swap ranch dressing for hummus: Ranch dressing is one of the most popular dips but it is loaded in saturated fat and offers no nutritional benefits to kids. Opt for fiber-rich hummus made with lemon, tahini, sea salt, pepper, and of course chickpeas!
- Swap chips for roasted chickpeas or kale chips: We get that kids like crunchy foods. Opt for a healthy alternative to potato chips or pretzels with roasted chickpeas or our kale chips.
With a little planning and shifting what you purchase, you can make even the unhealthiest foods a new, healthy version! Check out our recipes for even more ideas and reach out to us at [email protected] with any questions!