Healthy snacks for lunch boxes

Packing lunch boxes can be stressful, particularly if you leave it for the last minute as you're trying to head out the door and wrangle everyone into the car. Then there are all the choices: Do you fill it full of organic, nutritious stuff that your child may or may not eat? Do you fill it with items guaranteed to be consumed but not so healthy? And what about allergies... some schools are totally peanut-free, which leaves the old PBJ combo out in the cold.

You don’t want your kid to go hungry, waste food or, worse, trade for something you really don’t approve of. So, how do you create a win-win situation in the lunch box department?

There are many ways to sneak nutrition in, right under Sam's or Sasha's nose. The key factor that you need to remember is that taste trumps nutrition. If it tastes good, they won’t notice that it is also good for them. Here are a few ideas to run with on healthy snacks to stuff in a lunch box, without alerting the consumer (A.K.A. your kid) to its healthfulness.

Home made trail mix – Kids love to snack on stuff by the handful and naturally lean towards food they can eat in bite-sized servings. Moms love it because you can also sneak all sorts of good stuff in there – dried fruit bits, seeds, etc. – without them being any wiser.

Chips & salsa – Always a perennial favorite; you can even make home made salsa and tortilla chips on the weekend for more control over what your kids are eating.

Veggie chips - Before you grab that 10-pack of not-so-good-for-you chips, try the veggie ones. Chips and puffs made from vegetables often include a bit more in the vitamin area, and most kids do like them. Try a bag next time.

Mini kebabs - Use small wooden skewers and thread grapes, small cubes of cheese and leftover ham or chicken. Healthy, tasty and fun.

Hummus - This Middle Eastern chickpea dip is super healthy and is another great way to serve up those baby carrots. Dips and kids are always a hit.

Tzatziki - Originally from Greece, this garlicky yogurt dip is not for everyone but may just suit your kid's need for saltiness. Great with sliced cucumbers or pita chips.

Cheese – Single serve cheeses are awesome. They include a dose of calcium and protein. Include a toothpick for fun eating.

Peanut butter - Sure, PB & J sandwiches are everywhere but try a single serve pack of flavored peanut butter, if your school hasn't banned it. Super healthy, low in sugar and the squirt-in-your-mouth-fun-factor lets it compete head-to-head with sugary snacks, and win.

Apple with caramel – Single-serve caramel tubs and sliced apples are a great, healthy snack for kids of all ages.

Fruit medley – For some reason, if you stick an orange in your kid’s lunch box, it comes back to you, untouched. If you stuff a small Tupperware with a strawberry, a few raspberries, some blueberries and a slice or two of that same orange, they will eat every last bite. Go figure.

Vegetable medley – It’s the same with vegetables. A plastic zip-top bag with baby carrots gets old. But fill that Tupperware with a few carrots, a piece of cauliflower, a broccoli floret and a few cherry tomatoes and wow! Vanishing act. Be sure to pack a single serve ranch dressing packet for guaranteed success.

Yogurt – This is a great snack in its natural state, but not so great when you stir in sugary, chemically add-ins. Try organic vanilla with Grape Nuts cereal. It gives the added crunch your child is looking for, with the healthy twist moms like.

Tuna – If you child loves prepared snack packs and lunch kits, try single-serve tuna packs with whole wheat crackers. It lets them think they “won” but still gets them to eat healthy.

Organic fruit snacks and leathers – Honestly, these are great, healthy snacks when done right, meaning with organic and minimal added sugar.

Celery with PB and raisins – A classic snack that’ll make them think of mom. Yea!