Healthy School Lunch “Ingredient Swap”

Healthy School Lunch “Ingredient Swap”

A guest blog by Rebecca Sholiton, Co-Founder of EatPakd.

Packing healthy school lunches that get the “thumbs up” from kids can be a tall task — especially if you’ve got a picky eater in the family.

Thankfully, a few easy swaps at the grocery store can save some fat, sodium and sugar that may otherwise be lurking in school meals. Here, a few of our favorite ingredient swaps to make school lunch time a bit healthier:


Sandwiches are an easy way to provide lunch for the masses—and, let’s be honest, a decent technique for repackaging last night’s leftovers. One swap we like to make is avocado spread instead of mayo.

Mayo is notorious for its saturated fat (1.5g per Tablespoon), whereas avocado has a boatload of healthy monounsaturated fats, important vitamins for growth and cells like potassium, vitamin C, and B6.

To create a creamy texture, place avocado in a paper bag until very ripe, remove the skin and mash avocado in a plastic zip-tight bag (if you need something to smooth the texture, try Greek yogurt).


Speaking of Greek yogurt… This is one of those swaps that may not be the new kid on the block, but is one that is so easy it’s worth mentioning again.

Greek yogurt contains loads of protein, as well as calcium to help those tree-climbing, kickball-playing bones stay strong. Combining the yogurt with avocado is also a great way to create a creamy guac — which makes a great dip for carrots and green beans!

This swap also works at dinner time; next Taco Tuesday, swap out sour cream for some plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. (We would go the extra step and put it in a bowl, at least at first, to pacify the initial naysayers.)


Speaking of carrots and green beans…

In the battle of starchy vs. non-starchy, most kids will default to peas and corn as the veggies of choice. While these aren’t devoid of nutritional value, it’s worth broadening horizons for the most variety of nutrients—and, frankly, after 5 nights in a row of peas, you may want to scream.

Kick up the flavor factor and make non-starchy veggies the new “it” (think carrots, green beans, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms…).

At dinner time, steamed carrots seasoned well with dill, lemon juice (or any citrus) and a pinch of salt and pepper can make them tastier. Green beans or broccoli can bulk up cooked pasta (add in some beans or chicken for a one-pot lunch or dinner).


Potato chips are easy to toss into a lunch, but are often loaded with sodium and processed ingredients.

Believe it or not, kale chips can make for an appealing substitute — that kids will actually love! This requires a bit of work, but one large batch should provide enough chips to last for a week or longer.

This recipe is incredibly easy; all you’ll need is a head of kale, some coconut oil, a bit of salt, and about 20 minutes. If you’re ready to give it a try, check out our recipe here.


We know—picking up a bag of frozen French fries can seem like the easiest solution for a dinner side (and lunch leftover) when you’re in a jam. But before you do, opt for a bag of baked sweet potato fries instead.

Even if they aren’t from scratch (since sometimes there is just no time), you are ultimately getting essential nutrients without the saturated fat and sodium from deep-frying. If you have a second to breathe and want to do some by hand, slice them, boil them for five minutes, shock in cold water, and freeze on a cookie sheet for an hour to flash freeze. When you cook them for real, add a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

These are just as good as the store-bought ones, for way less money and without the unidentified ingredients. And they are delicious the next day at lunch (even when not warmed up)!


Most parents are on the lookout for sugary offenders in kids’ diets, reading labels constantly and trying to push healthy alternatives.

The challenge, of course, is in finding dessert options that kids will actually enjoy. Dried fruits can be a better (though not perfect) alternative here. For example, dried apricots can be substituted for processed, sugary gummies.

Dates have a high natural sugar content, but are also contain calcium and iron — as well as copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.

Figs are a similar alternative; they contain quite a bit of sugar (so should be consumed in moderation) but also include Vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.

Be sure to also check out our list of 12 School Lunch Superfoods!

If you’re looking for a healthier dessert option on the weekends, frozen banana ice cream will be a hit — that’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and without any added sugar. Finally, a dessert appropriate for every kid!

It involves cutting ripe bananas into coin-shaped slices, freezing, food processing the heck out of them until smooth, then freezing again until ice cream. (This step-by-step guide is brilliant.) Besides being the perfect treat to cool you off, it provides none of the bad stuff (zero saturated fat, cholesterol, or added sugars) and all of the good stuff (potassium, vitamin C, fiber and protein) and is way less expensive than your local ice cream shop. Bon appetite!

Vanessa Voltolina, RD contributed to this article.

EatPakd is a local Chicago company that makes wholesome, delicious, ready-to-eat school lunches — and delivers them straight to your door! They’re on a mission to help families establish positive food habits at an early age, by making lunchtime fun, creative, healthy, and delicious!

We are big fans and our kids love it. Now Meez Meals customer can try EatPakd and get their first 5 lunches for just $15! Simply visit and sign up using code MEEZMEALS



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