Well, guess what, mamas? We've talked with experts and scoured the lunch sack scene to find clean and green snacks that your kiddos will love. You'll love them for the ingredients and the company's sourcing methodologies and the whole family will love how delicious they are. They'll make packing those back-to-school-lunches a breeze, and you might even be surprised to find they motivate your little learners to pack their own lunches too!
Packing School Lunches Really Is Stressful!
A survey conducted by Wise Apple found that packing lunches was the top stressor for parents as their kiddos headed into new school years. According to that survey, almost all the parents (85%) surveyed said they felt stressed when they were preparing and packing lunches for their kids to eat at school. Over half the surveyed parents said they actually disliked packing school lunches and 61% claimed it was the most stressful part of the whole back-to-school prep season. Prepping and packing lunch was the number one stressor, with getting children up and dressed coming in at number two and doing homework as number three.
Yes, that means that more parents find figuring out how (and going through the motions) to pack their kids' lunch more laborious and dreaded than homework. Back-to-school season is already one of the most stressful times for parents--school lists, new clothes, new expectations for kids. Throw in back-to-school lunches again and it's enough to take parents down an ugly road.
Taste Is King
But why is it that parents dread packing lunches? We've talked to experts and found there are a couple of reasons. First, parents aren't really sure exactly what their kids are eating at school because they are not there. We mamas want to make sure as much as we pack is eaten, so we stress over making sure it's something that our kids will want to eat.
With that, though, comes the desire to make sure that what we feed our kids is healthy and gives them the right amount of brainpower without all the junk that so many processed and prepackaged foods carry. So, we often find ourselves hoping that what we pack will be tasty enough and good enough for them to make it into their little tummies.
Which is exactly why we went on a quest to find delicious snacks for kids' back-to-school lunches that they'll WANT to eat and you'll feel good about sending in their lunch bags. Studies show that kids actually pack healthier lunches when they're involved in the process, so having a plethora of good foods that they can easily grab and pack themselves make it more likely that they'll eat them at lunchtime.
And since the foods we've found are clean and green, you'll feel good about letting them pack them on their own--building independence and a greater likelihood that they'll eat them.
In our search, we've gotten to talk to a lot of mamas (and daddies) who have developed products first and foremost because they've wanted to make sure their own kids had healthy options. And, we've gathered information from nutrition experts who have told us just what to look for in healthy snacks for our kids' back-to-school lunches.
Janie Hoffman is the founder and CEO of Mamma Chia, a global organic, chia-based food and beverage company. Mamma Chia's core goal is in Spreading the Magic of Chia® and that's because Hoffman said she wanted to offer children nutrient-dense and tasty options. In the company's 10 years, Hoffman has relied on chia to offer kids 8x more Omega-3 than Salmon (great brain-building!), 25% more fiber than Flax, 50% more protein than soy and 15% more magnesium than broccoli! Truly superfood but worthless if your kids won't eat them. That's where Hoffman's pouches rock in that they add fruits and vegetables for natural occurring sugar to taste. Because, as she says, that's what it's about for kids: taste. Hoffman says, "Taste is king and by providing truly delicious products, that also happen to be incredibly nutritious, the market moved in our direction." And because chia wasn't an easy-to-find-organic product when she started Mamma Chia, she's helped drive a bigger market for healthier snacks for kids (and families) all over the world.
Kelli Warren is the founder and CEO of Notty, delicious snacks that give people better options for 'indulging.' Kelli founded Notty after years of eating low-carb foods while she managed a chronic health condition. She's spent the last decade eating high-protein, low-carb products and became a bit of an expert at creating snack hacks that were good for her health and also helped satisfy her sweet tooth. She didn't want to have to sacrifice on flavor so she reimagined chocolate to fit into her lifestyle.
Doing so, she also created options for parents to share with their children that allowed them to 'give treats' in lunchboxes that don't compromise health values. Limiting sugar but still giving them delicious treats makes packing back-to-school lunches so much easier!
Teaching Responsibility Starts With Our Purchases
Believe it or not, packing your child's lunch can also be a great lesson for them in how companies who source responsibly and take care of our planet are ones we want to patronize more. Teaching our children responsibility can start when we choose to spend our dollars with companies that take care of our earth while they take care of our families. That was the concept behind Emmy's Organics, a snack-food company out of Ithaca, New York. It was founded by Samantha Abrams and Ian Gaffney, and their goal was to be a company committed to using business as a force for good. All its cookies are made in a solar and wind-powered facility that produces minimal waste. They are a certified B Corporation that uses recyclable packaging and regularly gives back to community organizations and philanthropic efforts.
Good for kids, good for the earth. Yes, please!
Say Goodbye To Stress-Free Lunches!
Juicy Juice has partnered with Registered Dietician Mitzi Dulan not only to promote their new, healthy drink choices for lunch, but to give mamas some tips on how to reduce the dread that comes with packing school lunches. Dulan says that taking kids to the grocery store at the beginning of the school year so they can pick out their favorite fruits and healthy snacks gets them involved in the process. It also helps them create new and healthy habits for choosing their own foods.
She also advises incorporating snacks high in protein to their diet to help keep their immune systems strong and to help them grow and build muscle. Juicy Juice has introduced a new lunch-sized pouch that gives them juice-protein blends (whey protein) in their lunches for perfect brain refueling.
She also says that healthy fats and fiber can add to optimal refueling for a kid's brain, particularly at the end of the day, so make sure some of those lunch snacks can be eaten after school as well. And, as always, watch how much sugar actually goes into your child's lunch. She agrees that low-sugar snacks that also incorporate servings of fruit and vegetable reign.
Top Snacks For Back-To-School-Lunches
1. LesserEvil Snacks
We love LesserEvil's clean and mindful products for fueling little minds and bodies for the upcoming school year! LesserEvil's mission is to transform snacking into a mindful moment and they do so by offering healthy and delicious snacks with clean ingredients. They have all sorts of dietary options: vegan, gluten-free, organic, kosher, grain-free, dairy-free, paleo and non-GMO, and we love the grab-and-go packaging that makes it easy for them to go in lunchboxes and backpacks. Speaking of packaging, we love that LesserEvil recently transitioned its snack packaging to NEO plastics. When NEO plastics are discarded into landfills, they accelerate the natural microbial process to create biogas that can be collected and used for clean, renewable energy! LesserEvil basically says that nothing they wouldn't feed their own family goes into their products, and their deliciousness will make them a hit for your kids' lunches. They're committed to making the earth a better place, and we love it. Our favorites? Oh My Ghee and Classic Cheddah.
2. Mamma Chia Squeeze Pouches
Even though when Hoffman founded Mamma Chia, finding organic goodness from Chia seeds wasn't easy--now, thanks to their pouches, they're sold in over 15,000 locations all over the country. They're reasonably priced for daily lunches and each of the Chia Squeezes gives 1,200 mg of Omega-3 fatty acid and 4-6 grams of fiber. Talk about fueling little bodies with good brain-building and gut cleaning! They don't require refrigeration and that means they can sit in cubbies or backpacks and still be delicious when your little takes them out of their lunchbox, and the pouches fit perfectly in the lunch sack of your choice. And, while you might think, "My child will never eat that," you'd be surprised at how many mamas love Mamma Chia because their VERY picky eaters can't get enough of them! They're award-winning and a sustainable and conscious company dedicated to honor and uplift the soul of humanity and the planet. Mamma Chia donates a percentage of all sales to support farmers and community groups who work to build local and healthy food systems. We're in!
3. Notty Protein Bark
Notty's goal is to give a better-for-you take on sweets. Their Protein Bark includes grass-fed whey, but no added sugar and each 30g serving has 7-8 grams of protein to keep your kiddos going strong through the day. It's Ket0-friendly and a great low-carb option. And, while it may taste naughty, it isn't--it's Notty! It's non-GMO and has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. And, because there are stronger European regulations against GMOs, they source their non-GMO erythritol straight from France. Lemonberry is a popular favorite, with the form and taste of a unique chocolate that has a hint of lemon and a drizzle of sweet and tart strawberry. It's diabetic and Keto-friendly, as is the most popular flavor, Fluffernutter. Fluffernutter is white protein bark mixed with marshmallow and creamy peanut butter and will take you right back to eating your favorite childhood sandwich without all the gunk. They also have a delicious Cold Brew, Salted Almond and Peppermint Bark (perfect for the upcoming holidays).
4. Organic Juicy Juice Drink Boxes
Wouldn't it be nice to include a drink box in your child's lunch that isn't full of sugar or other fillers and offers a half a cup of fruit in each serving? Oh, and was organic, so you know the fruit juice is non-GMO and pesticide-free? We think so too, and that's why we love Juicy Juice's Fruitfuls Organic line. It has 45% less sugar than the leading organic juice but still has a serving of fruit in each serving and their new organic juice boxes are the perfect size. And, if you'd prefer to have even less juice but great hydration, their Juicy Waters line has less than 1% of organic juice in filtered water for delicious replenishment in each box.
5. Dosha Bar
Dosha Bars are clean and organic and nutrient-dense, which is just what you want for a back-to-school lunch. They are made with simple ingredients: unsweetened fruits, seeds and they're gluten and nut-free (often hard to find for a school snack in peanut-free zones). They don't have any artificial ingredients, oats or nuts and they're made from whole-food plant-based ingredients that give a chewy but crunchy feel. Dosha Brand looks to seek self-awareness and personal growth with yoga's sister science (Ayurveda). You can even take their 9-question "dosha quiz" to check out mind-body types in Ayurveda!
6. Quinn's Popcorn and Pretzels
Quinn's revolutionary "Pure Pop BagTM" sets them apart from other microwave popcorn because the popping bag contains no chemicals or plastic coatings. And, the paper bag the popcorn is in is biodegradable and compostable. The corn is non-GMO and organic and of course, gluten-free naturally. They have several flavors: Butter and Sea Salt, White Cheddar, Parmesan and Rosemary, Maple Kettle (MUST-TRY!) and Just Sea Salt and what kid doesn't love popcorn at lunch? That said, they also have Quinn's Pretzels, which also follow the company's Farm-to-Bag ingredient transparency policy. This means that each bag has a batch number so you can track ingredients and find out the farm they were grown on when you enter the batch number on their site.
The company's Farm-to-Bag ingredient transparency promise ensures you know all about the ingredients. Every bag has a batch number so you can track ingredients, right down to the farm it was grown on, by entering the batch number on their website.
7. EMMY's Organics
Emmy's Organics cookies are designed to give your kids a replacement for the typically processed cookie that doesn't give good ingredients or even taste in many cases. Emmy's are made with premium organic ingredients like fair-trade dark chocolate and organic coconut, and they're soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan. They come in Chocolate Chip, Dark Cacao, Lemon Ginger, Vanilla Bean and Peanut Budder and they're a company looking to use business for the good of our kids and the earth.
Kids love crunchy foods (so do we, right?) and that's why Crunchies are fabulous for school lunches. They're delicious freeze-dried snacks that are made with premium clean ingredients and they're better for your kiddos too. They don't dehydrate like traditional heat dried foods, but they freeze-dry so that the fruit tastes the freshest and maintains its nutritional value, color and most importantly, flavor. Crunchies is committed to responsible sourcing and tracing and it's the only vertically integrated U.S. consumer freeze-dried brand. They own their supply and manufacturing process so they know exactly where the ingredients come from and what's NOT in them. There are several flavors that include strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, blueberries and more. As well, they offer Freeze-dried fruit bites that are dipped in chocolate (yum) as well as Crouton Shakers for clean food topping.
9. Biena Chick Pea Puffs
Biena is a company that holds itself to three Standards of Goodness for it's snacks: nutritious, clean ingredients and DELICIOUS. Biena is the number one chickpea brand in the country and they've found the key to delicious plant-based snacks for kids. Their puffs are made from chickpeas and lentils and loaded with plant protein (7g) with up to 40% fewer carbs for building kids' brains but not dragging them down. They use real fruits and veggies for coloring and the puffs are fun for kids. Which means they eat them and fuel up. WIN! They come in Blazin Hot, Vegan Ranch and Aged White Cheddar flavors that are delicious and in convenient lunch-bag sized packages.
10. GAEA Snacks
Looking for vegetarian options that are shelf-stable for your kiddo's snacks? Hello GAEA! They offer Olive Snack Packs that are a savory, healthy snack to throw in your child's back-to-school lunches and they don't have any additives or preservatives. They're low in salinity and packed in re-sealable packaging that doesn't have liquid so your little one can have some at morning break and again at lunch or after school too. They're in delicious flavors that offer kids an opportunity to expand their flavor options.
GAEA's Veggie Snacks are the first shelf-stable and on-the-go vegetable snacks on the market. Veggie Snacks are convenient and vegan (as well as gluten-free) and also come in re-sealable packaging that lets your kiddos graze as they need. They're in delicious carrot, Gherkin and Cauliflower flavors and your kids won't even know they're eating their veggies!
11. SmashCrispy Treats
These are NOT your typical marshmallow treat bars! They blend farm-fresh fruits into toasty oat crumble and are made in a nut-free facility. This again is a great option for snacks where your kiddo is in a nut-free zone. They're made with organic can sugar and non-GMO ingredients and even the pickiest eaters love the healthier indulgence.
12. Peckish Peck Packs
Try saying that three times fast! You may have to because they're so delicious, kids might eat them up before you can even name them. They make snacking simple--two perfectly boiled eggs with a crunchy dip that lets kiddos dip and dine. They are gluten and dairy-free and have several different flavors of dipping for your kiddo to enjoy. Eggs are superfoods that keep your child's brains healthy and growing, and these shelf-stable eggs hit the mark!
13. From The Ground Up Cauliflower Crackers
From The Ground Up believes that food should be tasty and nutritious in equal parts so they developed these delicious cauliflower crackers (seriously--your kids won't even know!) to meet that need. They're the familiar shape and flavor kids love but so much better--the right mix of veggies and cauliflower and perfect for a good source of vitamins from veggies. They're vegan and focus on the power of plants for your kids' back-to-school lunches and every other day too.
14. Base Culture Snacks
We don't just love these snacks because they're paleo, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher, but they're DELICIOUS and they're created by a women-owned baked goods company. They use innovative techniques and simple ingredients to give products your kids will love to eat. I mean, Sweet Banana bread that is good for you?! Yes, please!
15. Hu Products
Hu (like 'human') products are vegan, paleo and free of gluten, grains, dairy, GMOs, and a ton of other stuff that make them friendly for many different dietary needs. They are kid-friendly treats that taste yummy and the Sour Goldenberries are nut-free so they're perfect for sending to school. They're delicious little treats to send in a lunch, and you might just win-parent of the year for the delicious yummy you include in their back-to-school lunch.
16. White Leaf Biodynamic Applesauce
Want to step up even past organic applesauce? Check out White Leaf's Biodynamic Applesauce. Every aspect of White Leaf's applesauce line has been conceived with the health and wellness of kids in mind, along with what effect the product will have on their future. From BPA free recyclable packaging and organic Ceylon Cinnamon to 100% US grown biodynamic / regeneratively farmed fruits used, White Leaf is passionate about bringing about a change in how we develop children's eating habits while being conscious of the environmental footprint. Biodynamic means the farms work to be self-reliant and regenerative and they replace all chemicals with natural farm manufactured compost and herbal sprays. It's a truly organic approach to farming that promotes biodiversity and lets Mother Nature take the lead in the fruit's development while working to formulate with your child's nutritional needs and tastebuds in mind.
Did you know that the number one cause of nighttime wetting in kids is that they are constipated? Drinking water and getting enough fiber doesn't seem to happen enough when kids are in school, so guess what? Now you can offer them FIBER in a treat they'll never know is cleaning their intestines out too! Your kiddos will think you're sending them with candy and they won't even know they're getting 24g of plant-based fiber! The soluble fiber sources have prebiotic and blood-sugar stabilizing properties, which means you're actually helping your children kick a 'sugar' habit. They're vegan too, and they pack the same punch as so many of those dyed, junky treats and withOUT the sugar!
Photo: LightField Studios/Shutterstock
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