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Oatmeal topped with nut butter and fresh strawberries can satisfy a kid's craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Oatmeal topped with nut butter and fresh strawberries can satisfy a kid's craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. )

Pack This, Not This

Try these alternatives to unhealthy lunchbox staples

Published Feb 15, 2017 • Last Updated 06:33 pm, February 15, 2017

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Let's face it: The packed-lunch classics that we all grew up with aren't always the most nutritionally sound choices. But it can be a struggle to find alternatives that are not only healthy but appealing to kids. Here are some good substitutes that should ensure an empty lunchbox at the end of the day.

Don't Pack: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Loaded with hydrogenated oil, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, this old reliable should be limited to the occasional treat.

Pack: Natural Nut Butter and Fresh Strawberry Oatmeal

Pack a thermos of hot water and a plain oatmeal packet, along with some diced strawberries (meaning extra fiber and less sugar) and a dollop of natural nut butter (as long as they're all-natural, peanut, almond, or sunflower-seed butters are good choices). At lunchtime, your child can mix the oatmeal, then stir in the berries and nut butter. It's a warm way to get that PB&J flavor.

Don't Pack: Chips

Most chips are high in fat and simple carbohydrates and low in nutritional value.

Pack: Roasted Edamame

Edamame offer protein and minerals and are naturally low in sugar and fat. Roasted, they provide a satisfyingly salty crunch.

Don't Pack: Pudding Snack Pack

Why is this bad? For starters, try to pronounce the ingredients on the label. Then look at the amount of sugar.

Pack: Yogurt

Aim for a Greek yogurt that is low in sugar and high in protein. It will help curb your child's craving for a cool, creamy, sweet treat.

Don't Pack: Lunchables

Kids enjoy assembling these grab-and-go lunches, but that doesn't justify the high levels of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates.

Pack: Bento Boxes

Combine slices of veggies, rolled-up lean cold cuts, and whole-wheat crackers for a lunch that's just as much fun and more nutritious.

Don't Pack: Fruit Cups

Sugar overload. Not what you would expect when you hear the term "fruit cup."

Pack: Fruit Skewers

Find a colorful assortment of whole and diced fruits and make the rainbow on a skewer.

Don't Pack: Commercial Granola Bar

With lots of empty calories from chocolate chips, corn syrup, and flavor fillers, most of these snacks should be barred.

Pack: Homemade Granola Bar

Check out for a healthy granola recipe using natural sugars, whole grains, and healthy coconut oil for the same yummy granola flavor without the overprocessed ingredients.

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