5 Healthier Lunchbox Picks (That Kids May Actually Eat)

lunch bag

How do we make mealtime appealing to little kids but acceptable to us? With summer winding down and the first day of school approaching, I've started thinking of ways to make lunchtime fun and healthy. Here are my product picks.

Juice Box: Vita Coco Kids is 100% natural juice from coconuts blended with filtered water and natural fruit flavors. The Kids line comes in three new varieties: Apple Island, Paradise Punch and Very Cherry Beach. On average, the drinks contain 8 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving; compare that with traditional juice boxes, which can have up to 30 grams of sugar, even in the 100% juice varieties. The Vita Coco drinks have no artificial sweeteners, are a good source of vitamin C, and have 200 mg of potassium per serving.

Whole-Grain Clusters: Getting kids to eat and enjoy whole grains can be tricky. I love KIND Healthy Grains Clusters, which are similar to granola, but lower in sugar and packed with healthy ingredients like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, oats, millet, chia, dried fruit and nuts. Given the fun flavors (Peanut Butter, Vanilla Blueberry and Dark Chocolate and Cranberry), the healthy snack can double as a treat. My son loves to munch on the grainy clusters as they are, but they also make a great topping for yogurt.

Non-Dairy Yogurt: With the rise in dairy allergies, yogurt may be a no-go for your child. Fortunately there are some  non-dairy yogurt options available that make good lunchbox additions. My pick: SoDelicious Cultured Coconut and Almond Milk Products. These products are dairy-free but contain the beneficial live cultures found in traditional yogurts.

• Freeze-Dried Fruits and Vegetables: Kids love crunchy snacks, but that often means nutrient-deficient carbs like pretzels and crackers. Try packing freeze-dried fruits and vegetables instead, like those from Just Tomatoes, Etc!. They don't contain additives, preservatives or sweeteners and they are also free of gluten, dairy, wheat and nuts. The new snack-size packages make it easy to grab and go.

• Fruit Purees: In my house, we are huge fans of fruit puree pouches. Del Monte is coming out with a new product called Fruit Burst™ Squeezers. The on-the-go snacks are made with natural fruit purees and juices and are free of artificial flavors and high-fructose corn syrup. I love the Fruit + Veggie varieties, which contain veggies as well as fruit (a plus, given the challenge of getting many kids to eat enough vegetables). The purees, made in the United States, contain 1½ servings of fruits or veggies and are an excellent source of vitamin C.

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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