7 Foods That Don’t Belong in Your Child’s Lunch Box

Graphic of popcorn, cola, popsicles, candy, potato chips, cookies with a red X over them

They’re quick and convenient — gold for busy parents. And they’re salty, sweet or a tempting orange cheesy color — so tempting for kids. Lunch box snacks make their way into many school kids’ lunches every day, and yet these processed foods are not good for growing bodies.

Food manufacturers aren’t making it an easier, creating confusing packaging claiming these snack foods are healthy and packed full of whole grains. Don’t believe that hype!

Here are seven convenience foods that it’s time to kick out of your kid’s lunch box.

  1. Juice Drinks. Even 100% juice is just sugar-water, missing the fiber that fills us up when we eat the whole fruit. Instead: Pack water or milk.
  2. Yogurt and yogurt tubes. Most popular varieties are extremely high in sugar and have all kinds of artificial coloring and flavoring. Instead: Choose a Greek yogurt variety, ideally nonfat, with the lowest possible sugar content.
  3. Granola, trail mix or Cereal bars. There is no such thing as a healthy granola or cereal bar. Instead: Make a  one-cup mix of low-sugar cereals (less than six grams of sugar per serving) or unbuttered popcorn.
  4. Fruit gummies. Made with real fruit! In fruit shapes! Really? Let’s call these what they are – CANDY! Instead: Pack some fresh-cut strawberries or grapes into an easy-open container.
  5. Soda.  Soda has absolutely no nutritional value, just lots of calories. Soda has no place in a child’s diet and it’s not even good for adults. Instead: If your child or teen insists on drinking soda, try diet soda to avoid added sugar. Better yet, try sparkling water! Or add fruit or cucumber slices to regular water for refreshing flavor.
  6. Crackers. One dietician told me that crackers are “practically the same as chips” because of high levels of sugar and salt and trans fats. Instead: Serve unbuttered popcorn or low-sugar cereal trail mix. Or make your own by crackers by baking a whole wheat tortilla or pita bread.
  7. Chicken nuggets. These chicken morsels are more than 50% fat, containing more carbs than protein. Instead: Pack healthier protein options such as leftover grilled chicken breasts or hard-boiled eggs.

Thea Runyan MPH

Thea Runyan, MPH is the Lead Behavior Coach for the Pediatric Weight Control Clinic at Stanford Children’s Hospital and cofounder of Kurbo Health, the first mobile, scalable weight management solution for kids, teens, and families. To learn more about Kurbo, please visit Kurbo.com.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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