A great way to help kids eat nutritious meals, and save money on food, is to pack meals. Whether it is for preschool snack time, lunch, or a weekend picnic, putting together a lunchbox full of healthy and tasty snacks is always a good idea. Sometimes though, it can seem like you are packing the same things, and that can make kids not want to eat what is in their brown bag. It can also get expensive to feed kids, especially if there are lots of siblings, so trying to eat healthy on a budget can be difficult. Lunchboxes are also limited in size, and can’t fit any kind of food, and it can feel hard to create variety. Fortunately, there are lots of creative ways to fill a lunchbox!
Here are 4 fun, affordable snack ideas for lunchboxes:
- Octopus string cheese: Most kids enjoy string cheese, which can be a good source of calcium. They come in a variety of shapes and flavors, and can be purchased in packs, helping parents save long-term. To make it fun if it has been in the go-to for a few weeks, give it a fun shape! Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut the bottom half into strips, and fold them out like an octopus. Use raisins to create little eyes. By changing up the appearance of the snack, it can re-interest the child in the snack.
- DIY Trail Mix: One of the best ways to encourage a young child, especially a picky eater, to eat more foods is to empower them to be a part of creating the meal or snack. Making a big bag of trail mix as a weekend activity can be a good way to do that. For kids with certain nut allergies, it is a great alternative since you control what goes in it. From chocolate chips to dried fruit, to raisins, or veggies slices, there are lots of options. You can also use spices they enjoy, such as cinnamon or ranch seasoning, to encourage them to eat if there is something in there they don’t like. Since some of these ingredients can be purchased in bulk, they have a long shelf life and are affordable.
- Peanut butter bites: These quick and easy snacks can also be customized to the tastes of different children. Chocolate chips, dried cranberries, dried oats, and other tasty bits can be rolled into peanut butter with a touch of flour and honey to keep it together. Again, many of these ingredients can be purchased on a budget. Best of all, these sweet treats do not need to be baked! Toss them into the fridge and pull them out when you need a protein-packed power snack for family hikes or P.E. days at school
- Sandwiches – but make it fun-shaped: Sometimes you just do not have time to get creative, and a PB&J or a turkey sandwich will have to do the trick. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. After making the sandwich, grab a cookie-cutter and press it into the sandwich. Suddenly, a boring sandwich can become a seasonal shape like a leaf or a snowflake, a ferocious dinosaur, or any other shape that your children find exciting. Again, for those with multiple kiddos to feed, each kid can have a different-shaped sandwich. If you’re packing for the whole family, that can also be a quick way to identify whose sandwich is whose. It can also be good for helping identify sandwiches that belong to kids with severe food allergies if you have a child pick a shape they want their sandwiches to always look like.
We hope these ideas inspire you and your children to explore more creative ways to make healthy snacks. What fun, quick lunch box foods do your kids like? Let us know!
By: Bethany Verrett.