Best Store Bought Foods for Kids

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Convenience or nutritional value? Which of these take the cake in your shopping cart? The struggle is real for parents trying to juggle everyday insanity with getting healthy meals and snacks in to lunch boxes and on to dinner tables. Find out which store bought foods can be both big nutrition winners and major time savers.

Shopping Tips

Going to the grocery store with your kids can test your patience and pull at your purse strings. Instead of turning the aisles into a war zone, get the kids involved in the process. First off, always follow the golden rule—make sure no one is hungry when you push that cart over the grocery store threshold. Be ready to shop on a full stomach and before heading to the store, make a plan. Let the kids help write out the shopping list and challenge them to pick a new food to try each week. Letting the little ones have some of the control will help pique their interest in shopping, meal prep, and eating.

If you’re struggling with educating your kids about the health benefits of the foods they choose, you aren’t alone. Parents have the best intentions when trying to get their kids to make nutritious selections, but sometimes those messages come across as another chore on the to do list and end up being a big turn off. Instead of emphasizing how healthy a food is, lead with other attributes such as flavor, color, and other appealing aspects. Connect the foods to an experience or part of the weekly routine  “wouldn’t this be the perfect snack after karate?”

Fruits + Veggies

Buying fruits and veggies in season is the best way enjoy foods at the peak of freshness and forces your family to switch things up from month to month. Encourage the kids to explore the produce department and experiment with new things. When the weather cooperates, skip the store all together and head to a local farmers’ market.

Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE of reaches for one of the most adorable type of oranges. “I'm a huge fan of Cuties! They come in their own package, can fit in my purse and in addition to being popular with kids, they help satisfy my sweet tooth.”

Avocados remain a popular pick on social media. Leverage those pics of avocado with your kids and suggest they find fun ways to add avocados to their plates. Go ahead and slather pieces of whole grain toast with avocado and toasted sesame seeds, add a few slices to a pineapple smoothie, and never underestimate the nutrient packed power of a big bowl of guacamole at the center of the dinner table.

Kid Friendly Tip: Keep containers of cut up fruits and veggies front and center in the fridge, kids are more likely to reach for them if they are the first thing they see.

Whole Grains

From breads to crackers to breakfast cereals, healthy options do exist, but they can be hard to find. To shop for less processed grains with more fiber and other nutrients, read ingredient labels carefully. Buy  whole grain foods like rolled oats, brown rice and popcorn (yes, popcorn counts towards your servings of whole grains). Choose versions of these foods that are unsweetened and unsalted and then add the flavorings yourself so you can control the levels. Stock up on whole grain breads from a local bakery and store slices in the freezer to get more mileage out of each loaf.

Kid Friendly Tip: Make popcorn in the microwave. Place a quarter cup of popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top to close. Place the bag in the microwave and cook on high power for approximately 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Pour popped kernels into a large bowl and top with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt, cinnamon sugar or a flavorful spice blend.

Go Pro

High protein foods are an integral part of meals and snacks to ensure little bodies feel energized for extended periods of time. Instead of massive portions at one or two meals, the best way to eat protein is in small increments throughout the day at meals and snacks.

Grab and go options like part skim mozzarella cheese sticks come individually wrapped and contain 8 grams of protein per piece, which is an ample dose for any lunch box.

If you're on the hunt for a better nugget, check out Applegate's menu of offerings for chicken nuggets and tenders. They are made without the use of antibiotics and are available in organic and gluten free varieties.

In addition to healthy fats, nut butters contain more protein than most folks think. The standard two tablespoon serving of peanut or almond butter contain each contain 7 grams of protein.

Hard boiled eggs also make for a simple hand-held snack food. If you ask Toby Amidor, MS, RD best-selling cookbook author and Eggland’s Best nutrition partner. “I always make sure to pack Eggland’s Best Hard-Cooked Peeled Eggs in my daughter’s lunch box.” Eggland’s Best eggs are the only eggs that provide 6 times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs, which helps form strong bones, and they provide more than double the vitamin B12 of ordinary eggs, which helps keep energy levels high throughout the school day.”

Kid Friendly Tip: Keep packets of almond butter like Justin’s on hand for perfectly portioned of healthy fats.

Raising the Bar

Sure, most parents would like to make batches of homemade granola bars for all the kids in the neighborhood but let’s face it, that’s not realistic in the midst of exams, soccer tournaments, and dance recitals. There are dozens of snack bars lining store shelves but sadly, many are just candy bars in disguise. Pass on the bars chock full of protein powders and look for bars with short ingredient lists and a limited amounts of added sugars. LARA Bars are made from the simplest of ingredient lists and new flavors are always popping up to help keep the kiddos interested. If finger foods are more popular in your house, reach for bite-sized Nourish granola bites.

Kid Friendly Tip: When the mood (and opportunity) does strike, make large batches of homemade bars and store in the freezer.

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