We all know that kids need to eat a variety of fresh foods to be healthy. Great. We also know that packing a lunchbox with fresh food can be challenging at times. It might be a Monday morning emergency when the fridge is empty and the fruit bowl only contains one limp looking banana. Or perhaps you’ve got a super fussy child who only likes plain, white, crispy foods. Or perhaps you just don’t have a lot of time, but the canteen is closed that day. Whatever your reason, sometimes you just need the convenience of a healthy pre-packaged snack to pack in the lunchbox. So, what to choose?
How to choose healthy pre-packaged snack foods for your kids
It’s not always easy to pick a healthy pre-packaged snack. The information on the front of the packet is confusing at best, and sometimes it can feel like you need Sherlock Holmes skills to interpret the nutrition information.
So many parents have told me how overwhelmed they are by choosing snack options for lunchboxes. That’s essentially why I started my weekly ‘Chewsday Reviews’. Each week I let you know what I like and don’t like about a different food that kids often eat, and what I recommend instead. You can follow along, and submit your own requests, for reviews of packaged food products for kids!
Four tips for choosing pre-packaged snacks
As a dietitian, I’d always recommend fruit or vegetables as a first option for lunchbox fillers. But, in real life I know that this can sometimes be challenging. So here are my top tips for choosing an ok pre-packaged snack option for your child’s lunchbox.
1. Treat the ‘health food’ aisle with a high level of suspicion.
2. There’s never going to be a perfectly healthy pre-packaged snack
It’s impossible compete with the nutritional content of fruit or veggies. But, you can find healthy pre-packaged snack foods which are nutritionally better than others. You just have to weigh up the ingredients and the nutritional content to work out which one is best for your family.
I like to look for:
- saturated fat content of less than 3g/100g
- a sugar content of less than 15g/100g
- sodium content of less than 420mg/100g
- a source of fibre or calcium
3. Consider adding a fruit, vegetable or dairy component to your healthy pre-packaged snack foods
This might be some cheese to go with the crackers, some fruit to mix with the yoghurt or a side of veggie sticks with the chips/wholegrain bites. This will boost the overall nutritional content of your snack (and take the pressure off you having to serve lots of these foods at mealtimes).
4. You pay for convenience.
The smaller the packs, the more you pay. Where possible, try to buy bigger tub/packet/containers of your healthy pre-packaged snack foods and decant into your own preferred packaging.
The following snack foods are those I quite like (or at least don’t thoroughly dislike!) Remember, they’re not perfect, and they’re not necessarily an everyday food- but they’re a good option to have on hand in a snackmergency! These are reviews I’ve done to date, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to request a Chewsday Review of your favourite snack food!
- Messy Monkeys Wholegrain Bites
- Brownes ‘A Hint Of’ flavoured milks (WA only)
- The Happy Snack Company Roasted Chic Peas
- Calciyum yoghurt tubs
- Petit Miam Squeezie
- Bega Stringers
- Sun Rice Mini Bites
- Carman’s Fruit and Nut Muesli Bars
- Laughing Cow Cheese
- Devondale Moo Flavoured Milk
- Woolworths Pikelets
Dr Kyla Smith the author of this post. She is a Paediatric Dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. She has a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla on her website and sign up for her newsletter, and her Facebook page or on her Instagram Page. You can also email her.