Healthy lunch
Family Health

7 Healthy Ingredient Substitutions for Your Kids' Lunches

Parents want their kids' lunches to be nutritious, and kids want lunches that taste great. Luckily, healthy ingredient substitutions can make it possible to achieve both. Here are seven ingredient substitutions that are recommended by a registered dietitian for your kids' lunches.

1. Whole-Wheat Bread

A better sandwich starts with the bread. Instead of reaching for white bread, why not try whole wheat? Each slice packs two grams of fiber for healthy digestion. Fiber also helps kids stay full longer, which prevents mid-afternoon hunger pangs. Replacing one half of a white-bread sandwich with a slice of whole-wheat is an easy way to help your child make the leap.

2. Roasted Chicken

Processed deli meats, like turkey and ham, are an easy way to pump up the protein in sandwiches. However, they often contain nitrates and nitrites, additives that have been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers. Substitute deli meats for roasted chicken, and you'll lose the additives but keep the protein.

3. Mashed Avocado

For a healthier spin on tuna, egg, or chicken salad, why not upgrade to mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise? You'll gain vitamins C and E, plus heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Whisk in a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning.

4. Nuts

Who doesn't love a little something crunchy to munch on? Instead of chips, think nuts. Unlike nutritionally empty chips, nuts deliver fiber, protein, and antioxidants. No wonder just one handful a day has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory disease.

5. Cheddar Cheese and Veggies

Add more produce to your child's meal by trading cheese and crackers for cheese and sliced carrots and bell peppers. When you do, try cheddar cheese instead of American, and you'll be cutting sodium levels by about 60 percent.

6. Fresh Berries

Gummy snacks might seem like a smart alternative to candy, but one little pouch can easily pack an entire tablespoon of sugar. Satisfy your child's sweet tooth with blueberries instead. They're loaded with antioxidants that may boost memory and concentration.

7. Homemade Oatmeal Cookies

Everyone deserves a little treat now and then, but store-bought baked goods are filled with refined grains that can send your child's blood sugar -- and energy level -- on a roller coaster ride. For a healthier sweet, slip a homemade oatmeal cookie into your child's lunch box. Swapping whole-wheat pastry flour for half your recipe's white flour can help boost fiber, too.

With these healthy ingredient substitutions, you'll be packing a better lunch for your child (and maybe even yourself) before you know it!

Posted in Family Health

Karen Ansel is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant, speaker, journalist and author. Her work has been featured in Fitness, Shape, Oprah, Weight Watchers, Parade, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health magazines. She received her Master's of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen belongs to several dietetic practice groups including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Nutrition Entrepreneurs.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.