Let’s Do Lunch!
Pack It & Snack It
Choosing back-to-school lunch gear is never easy – it has to be kid-pleasing, but not budget-busting, and functional as well. Snack foods have to please all, too, with kid-approved flavor but healthy nutrition moms and dads require. Atlanta Parent magazine’s staff, contributors and Parent Advisory Board (PAB) members were up to the challenge. On a recent evening in the Whole Foods Market Buckhead’s café, we tasted and tested good-for-you snacks and new lunch gear that should win over the pickiest of kids and delight their grown-ups. Read about our fave picks for healthier snacks and the gear that rose above the rest.
Visit atlantaparent.com/deals for AP reader discounts on our back-to-school gear picks!
Packit Freezable Lunch Bag, $19.99, packit.com and Bed, Bath & Beyond
A cool idea: a soft-sided freezable lunch bag that keeps foods cold for about 10 hours. It folds flat when not in use so it takes up very little freezer space.
Rebecca Leffler, AP Contributor: “I love that it keeps things cold for several hours and folds flat for backpack stashing and home storage.”
Mamoo Kids Rover red toddler backpack, $29, mamookids.com
While not specifically a lunch bag, its roomy inside space, easy magnetic clasp and adorable design make this a standout option for brown (or red!) bagging. Plus, it’s machine washable.
Ayanna Hawkins, PAB: “I love the design and magnetic closure.”
Milkdot Stoh Lunch Tote Striped Collection, $27, milkdot.com
A lightweight, handily handled lunch tote with organization pockets inside and out has a water-repellant exterior and wipes clean inside.
Meredith Snellings, PAB: “Nice handle! The shape and size make it easy to pull out of a backpack and carry.”
Eco Vessel Smashbox Collapsible Lunch Box, Single Compartment $16.95, Double Compartment $19.95, ecovessel.com
Any foods can go inside the collapsible container that’s dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe. A multi-use spork fits into the lid, and it folds down to a compact size.
Melissa Williams, PAB: “Love that you can collapse it for storage or smaller snacks. It’s like a two-in-one!”
I See Me Personalized Tin Lunchbox, $29.95, iseeme.com
Tin (no lead) lunchboxes with your kid’s name displayed on multiple sides makes bringing lunch a lot more special. A chalkboard lining the lid is the perfect spot for notes from home.
Rebecca Leffler, AP Contributor: “These remind me of lunchboxes when I was a kid – really cute! I love that it can be personalized and the chalkboard on the inside!”
Eco Lunch Gear Sandwich Wrap and Bag, Wrap $10.50, Snack Bag $10.50, ecolunchgear.com
Lined to keep food fresh, these 100 percent cotton reusable food huggers are machine washable and a good-looking green alternative to plastic baggies.
Alicia Garcia, PAB: “Adorable and functional.”
Beatrix NY Cozy Can, $22.50, beatrixny.com
They look like sodas, but these stainless steel insulated cans hold water or whatever healthy drink you pour, plus the lid holds a built-in straw.
Melissa Williams, PAB: “My kids would love to drink out of this.”
Booginhead Pack'Ems, $9.99 for 2, booginhead.com, Walmart and other retailers
Reusable food bags with Velcro Press-Lok closure keep everything clean on the go, and the stand-up, expanding bottoms make it easy to stuff in snacks and sandwiches.
Dalia Faupel, AP Associate Editor: “I love how they stand up for easy filling and they stayed closed, even in a messy bag.”
ECOlunchbox Blue Water Bento Splash Box with Cotton Carrying Bag, Splash Box $22.50, Bag $16, ecolunchboxes.com
An embossed (for good grip) silicon leak-free lid covers a stainless steel lunch compartment. The 100 percent cotton carry bags have sturdy cord handles and are machine washable. Designs connect the purpose of no plastic: to protect our oceans.
Alicia Garcia, PAB: “I’ll take it now! It’s easy to open and clean, leak-proof, cute, and I love the coordinating bag.”
Contigo Autospout Kids Striker Water Bottle, $10.99, gocontigo.com, Target and other retailers
A ready-for-anything water bottle has a protective spout cover to keep it clean, plus a one-touch lid pops up for one-handed straw drinking. It’s even spill proof with the spout open.
Meredith Snellings, PAB: “My son would go bananas for this one, plus it has a great spout to keep germs out.”
Nalgene On the Fly Kids Water Bottle, $10, Target and REI
A durable, easy-to-clean water bottle for little hands has a smooth-operating drinking spout, locking, leak-proof cap and designs with kid appeal.
Kim Curnutt, PAB: “This would really get my son interested in drinking more water.”
New Healthier Snacks
Kids love a treat for lunch, but many moms want something that has more nutrition than Oreos. We found several healthy choices that meet the taste-test.
Bitsy’s Brainfood Smart Snacks, $2.99/box, Whole Foods
Tasty letter shapes made with whole grains, fruits and veggies come in combos like Lemon Broccoli and Orange Chocolate Beet. They don’t hide their healthy side! Go online for kid nutrition games and coloring pages.
Tenisha Bell, PAB: “I love that they’re tasty, educational and have great nutritional value.”
Surf Sweets Gummy Bears, $2.19 per bag, Whole Foods
Who doesn’t love gummies? These bright bears have 100 percent Vitamin C per serving and are made with organic fruit juice and natural flavors and colorings.
Caren Lightfoot, PAB: “It’s great that they don’t use artificial sweeteners or colors and they’re not too sweet.”
Gnu Foods FiberLove Bars, $1.69, Whole Foods
A chewy, filling bar with 12g of fiber, whole grains and a moist texture comes in flavors from fruity (Banana Walnut, Apple Cobbler) to fudgy. Sugar content stays moderate even in Peanut Butter Chip and Blondie.
Laura Powell, AP Associate Publisher: “The banana one is delicious. It doesn’t taste like a high fiber bar.”
GoPicnic, $2.99 each, Target and gopicnic.com
GoPicnic ready-to-eat snacks are each under 300 calories and come cutely boxed for an occasional weekday treat. Choices like black bean dip, hummus and accompanying crackers or flats need no refrigeration and have no artificial ingredients.
Jordan Lisvosky, AP Special Events: “These are healthy snacks in a fun package. They’d be great for a field trip day.”
Krave Basil Citrus Turkey Jerky, $3.49 per 1.5 oz. bag, Target, Cost Plus World Market
A soft, tangy jerky made from turkey and natural ingredients is a high protein snack food with bite! A strong snack alternative to deli meats, it requires no refrigeration to stay fresh.
Monica Scott, AP Intern: “This has amazing flavor and is fresh tasting.”
Simply 7 Cheddar Quinoa Chips, $3.19, Whole Foods and Goodness Grocery
A healthy alternative for chip lovers, it’s packed with protein, contains no artificial colors or flavors and marries sharp cheddar flavor with supergrain quinoa’s nutty taste.
Ayanna Hawkins: “They’re flavorful and made with quinoa. I’d buy immediately.”
KIND Healthy Grains Clusters, $5.99 per bag, Whole Foods and Target
A version of granola is a big source of fiber and whole grains (oats, millet, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa) that’s a solid pick for dry snacking or a crunchy, not-too-sweet topper for yogurt.
Andrea Neiman: “It’s a yummy, multi-purpose healthy option.”
Honest Tea Lemonades, $2.49, exclusive to Whole Foods
Refreshing lemonades made with natural ingredients and flavored with mango, berry and lime are sweet to sip, but low on sugar compared to similar drinks
Kim Curnutt, PAB: “Not too sweet, great alternative sugar-wise.”
Tried and True
GoGo squeez Applesauce On the Go, $2.59 for a 4-pack, Publix, Kroger and other retailers
Applesauces – straight or paired with other fruit friends – in resealable pouches make it simple to squeeze in another serving of fruit.
Andrea Neiman, PAB: “These are a great to-go snack pick.”
365 Organic Everyday Value Organic Fruit Strips, $0.59 each, Whole Foods
Individually wrapped not-too-sticky fruit leathers made with organic fruits and juices hit the sweet spot in flavors like strawberry, cranberry and blueberry.
Marteeta Spradling, AP Contributor: “These have great fruit taste and seem to be a healthy option for a sweeter snack.”
Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Snacks, $3.29, 4-oz. bag, Most grocery retailers
The classic healthy snack is a school day staple. Cheesy baked puffs of rice and corn are portable and poppable. Pirate shapes (anchors and ship steering wheels) come in the new Crunchy Treasures version.
Tenisha Bell, PAB: “Love that it’s a healthy and a light snack with a satisfying crunch.”
Lifeway ProBugs Organic Whole Milk Kefir, $5.99 for 4-pack, Whole Foods and Kroger
Bright, grippable pouches with no-spill spouts house tasty kefir. Flavors like the tart (yet sweet) Goo-berry Pie are filled with good bacteria for tummy health.
Caren Lightfoot, PAB: “It’s a good tasting probiotic, and the packaging is fun.”
Florida's Natural Organic Nuggets, $4.99 box of 10 pouches, Whole Foods and Target
Fruit snacks made with real organic fruit get high marks for taste, not too much sweetness, and “chewability.”
Stacy Harris, PAB: “They’re chewy, fun and not overly sweet.”