Getting Real With Back To School Lunches

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Back to school lunches are challenging. They have to meet the taste bud requirements of my 12 year old and 14 year old and their dietary needs. They have to meet my quality standards. And they need to be easy to throw together!

The items I am about to share with you I picked up from grocery stores in the greater Washington DC area, where I live. I try to choose stores and brand names that are widely available in hopes you can find these items as well.

Drinks:

  1. WTR MLN WTR (Watermelon Water) is my top pick for a sports drink and electrolyte replacement beverage. This is a much better option than popular brands that are filled with sugar. This is a cold pressed juice flavored for the younger consumers.
  2. GT’s Kombucha “Lemonade” flavor is also a lower sugar option that my kids will actually drink. Full of lots of probiotic goodness.

Dips:

  1. CAVA Hummus is a great brand if your kids like having a “dip” to dip their veggies and chips into. The caramelized onion flavor is a favorite. The clean ingredient profile means that my kids can enjoy this and I know they aren’t consuming any of the funky oils (like canola) that we try to avoid.
  2. Siete Cashew Queso is a tasty alternative to a traditional processed cheese dip. it works well if you have a kiddo that needs to avoid dairy but can tolerate nuts. Trader Joe’s also makes a Cashew Queso and is comparable to the Siete brand.

Healthy Snacking:

  1. Organic Sugar Snap Peas: this option may not be as exciting to kids, however, it fits my requirement that my kids pack at least one real vegetable in their lunches.
  2. Grillo’s Pickles are easy to add and contain clean ingredients. These delicious spears are a fresh and crunchy addition to any lunch.
  3. Siete Tortillas: I like tortillas because my kids can fill them with a wide variety of options and easily wrap them up and add them to their lunch box. Siete once again, is a top brand because their chickpea flour version of tortilla tastes the best to my household which is largely grain-free.

Lunch Items:

  1. Chorizo & Salami: these sliced meats are great for my boys. Read your labels! When buying anything considered to be a lunch meat or deli meat you do not want any nitrates or nitrites. Every ingredient should be easy to pronounce and something you recognize.
  2. Organic String Cheese: my youngest can tolerate dairy and so I do buy string cheese for him. I purchased the Horizon Organic brand and the essential quality that I look for is full fat dairy products. Purchasing low-fat or skim milk based cheeses are not a healthier option.
  3. Coconut Collaborative is my favorite non-dairy yogurt for myself and the boys. I’ve tried a wide variety of brands and this is the one that we all like. I know that Wegman’s on the east coast carries it. For the boys I will add a few drops of liquid stevia and berries to liven up the plain variety.
  4. Fruit Jerky (Fruit Strips) I found some clean varieties at Whole Foods. I grabbed a variety of flavors to throw in their lunches. Fruit strips are not ideal, I prefer them to eat real fruit. However, they don’t always want to travel with fruit and having a fruit strip is a good alternative to that, especially the ones that don’t contain corn syrups or sugars.
  5. If your kids love an easy “macaroni and cheese” type meal I urge you to try for cleaner varieties. I found an organic brand that had clean ingredients, this is not a gluten free option but it is something they can make for themselves.
  6. Brown Basmati Rice: I like these packaged options that I can have the boys cook themselves when they declare they are “starving.” They also mix in well with proteins that we prep for the week.
  7. Figs: fresh figs are hearty enough to be toted in a school lunch and are in season! Don’t overlook this fun fruit!

Chips & Crackers:

  1. Siete single serving chip bags are not the most economical but they are a grain-free option that require zero effort.
  2. Organic potato chips are another grain free option. My boys love their salty, crunchy snacks. So I look for very minimal ingredients. The particular ones mentioned in the video contain only potatoes, avocado oil and sea salt.
  3. Ba’na’na plaintain chips: These are cooked in coconut oil and are truly delicious. I highly recommend them.
  4. Simple Mills cheddar crackers made with almond flour. These individual packets of crackers are gluten free and easy to toss in a bag. They do not last long in my house as everyone loves them.
  5. Quinn pretzels are a great brand. The pretzels are clean but not gluten free, so do read your labels if you are avoiding gluten.
  6. CHOMPS meat sticks: we love CHOMPS brand meat sticks! They are very portable and a quick source of protein.

Desserts:

  1. Bobo’s Toaster Pastries, more of a dessert than nutritious snack, however an occasional treat is fine and this organic variety has clean ingredients.
  2. Endangered Species Dark Chocolate. I look for a high percentage of cacao and no soy emulsifiers in high quality chocolate.

I would love to hear some feedback! Did you find these suggestions helpful? What do you pack in your kids’ school lunches? Is there anything I left out that your family loves? Let me know in the comments below!

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