Prepackaged Snacks for School

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The other day my brother asked my opinion on some organic prepackaged snacks they were considering buying. He said that for their busy family (which includes two working parents and two kids, ages 8 and 4) it is important for their school snacks to be individually wrapped. After reviewing the list of ingredients he emailed me I thought the “Organic Jammy Sammy Snack Size Sandwich Bars” had both pros and cons:

Pros:

  • It was organic (although just because something is organic does not mean it is okay…there are a lot of highly processed organic foods out there)
  • It contained whole grain oats
  • It contained whole grain barley flour
  • Salt was the last ingredient on the list, which means it was what they used the least of

Cons:

  • The first ingredient (and what it contained the most of) was the strawberry filling which lists cane juice (a sweetener similar to sugar) as its top ingredient
  • The strawberry filling also contained rice starch and pretty much anything with the word starch (like corn starch) is highly processed/refined
  • The strawberry filling also contained citric acid (a preservative)
  • In addition to the cane juice in the strawberry filling these bars also had two other forms of sweeteners listed – agave and more evaporated cane juice

And in summary I said they were probably better than a Fig Newton or Nutrigrain bar (which I think must be similar from looking at the picture), but they don’t look fabulous mainly because of the sweetener issue. I suggested they try to find something with whole-grains as the first ingredient (instead of the sweet filling) and not having any sweeteners listed in the top three ingredients.

So after our discussion I decided it would be a fun challenge to try to find as many prepackaged “real food” snacks as I could. I’ve done a few posts on snacks in the past, but never before using “individually wrapped” as the main criteria. So there may be a little bit of overlap with some of my previous snack posts. But without further ado, here is what I came up with (and also shipped to my niece and nephew!)…

  • Small packages of pecan pieces that I found in the baking section of the store…unfortunately this is one of the things on the list that is not organic, but again that was not my main criteria
  • Little boxes of organic raisins
  • Individual bags of almonds
  • Fruit leathers (found at both our main grocery store and Target)
  • Packages of sunflower seeds (still in the shell)
  • Funky Monkey freeze dried fruit (they have this brand at both Earthfare and Target)
  • Organic mandarin oranges that are actually preserved in orange juice instead of another type of sugary syrup
  • Lara bars which are fruit and nut bars with a very small list of ingredients (found at Earthfare, Harris Teeter, and Target)
  • Individually wrapped bags of popcorn, which I wish weren’t cheese flavored and I also wish were organic, but this was all I could find (and it is hard to ignore the fact that popcorn is 100% whole grain!)
  • Bananas…obviously everyone knows about bananas, but they do conveniently come in their own little individually wrapped package (made by nature of course) so I sent these to sort of just make a point. And I sent two little packets of peanut butter that could be sent to school with the bananas since they do not go to nut-free schools.
  • Applesauce in little squeeze packets
  • Package of pumpkin seeds
  • Another brand of freeze dried fruit

So from what I heard the package arrived, and the kids “tore” into it…which was good to know! And when I spoke to my 8-year-old niece on the phone, she said that she was already familiar with some of the things I sent, and excited about trying the new stuff. The only thing she said she would not eat are the raisins because she already knows she doesn’t like them. Starting next week they will pull from that box for their school snacks each day, and I certainly look forward to hearing the outcome!

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33 comments to Prepackaged Snacks for School

  • kelly

    Great post! I am glad to learn about the funky monkey freeze dried fruit. I found a brand at Costco (brothers international)-and purchased a good bit only to realize they are made in China.

    • Carlen

      Oh my goodness, we bought the SAME dried fruit at Costco…came home and had some (hubby and I, we did not give it to the kids as my 6 yo son has sensitivities to all preservatives/additives. We thought, hmmm this is ok for us parents, let’s just try it. A few hours later we have massive headaches, I am NOT exaggerating. And we are NOT overly sensitive people to this kinda stuff (although we strive to eat well/better most of the time. It wasn’t until then that we looked at the bag and were shocked to see that 1) It was from China and 2) In teh ingredients list there were more preservatives listed (repeatedly)than actual fruit and this was a dried fruit mix!
      It was a huge eye opener and never again will we be so quick to just grab and go last minute whiel standing at the checkout line at Costco (or anywhere else) :o)

  • We are probably 3/4 of the way there on whole foods only. But I’m having the hardest time in this area! And part of it is b/c my kids are older (out of sight out of mind doesn’t work too easy for teenagers) and lots of snack subs they can’t have (popcorn, sticky/chewy anything) farther limit my options. I’m not giving up though! Eventually they’ll eat what’s here or starve I suppose! :)

  • I’m confused as to why they need individually wrapped snacks. I completely understand working parents… busy lives… but speaking from experience it doesn’t take much time to put some raisins (or any other snack) into a container. It’s something that can easily be done the night before… or even on the weekend… putting the kids (or adults) snacks in reusable containers is a snap and my kids always like filling their snack containers.

    We never buy anything individually wrapped because of the environmental impact… especially when it’s so easy to buy bulk or a bigger version (e.g. jar of applesauce) and put them in our own kid-sized containers. Oh, yeah… not to mention it’s a lot cheaper. ;)

    • I agree that it is not our personal choice either (in most cases), but everyone certainly has different requirements and priorities. Whatever the reason is though I certainly prefer for them to at least select something reasonably healthy over a highly processed alternative!

      • I’m with you… and I hope that when I wrote that… it didn’t sound like a rant… I’ve been doing a lot of beach clean-ups here (Wrightsville Beach, NC) and we have been finding SO many wrappers (amongst other things) from individually wrapped single serve foods. It’s such a bummer. I was hoping to point out that it’s super easy to make foods that seem not so convenient… convenient. :)

        As a mother of 3 young children, I completely agree that REAL foods are most important.

        Absolutely, LOVE your blog and congratulations on 100 days :D

  • Laura Peters Culp

    I totally understand individually wrapped snacks. As a mommy of 2 (5 and 2 – I pack lunches for both of them) who works outside of the home, I find myself asking these questions at the grocery store:

    1. Is it healthy?
    2. Is it minimally processed?
    3. Does it need to be organic?
    4. Does it need to be reheated at school?- because I can only send plastic and don’t want it reheated in plastic in the microwave
    5. Will my kids eat it?
    6. Can I afford it?
    7. Can I make it at home in a better form?
    8. Does it have minimal packaging?
    9. Was it shipped from a minimal distance?
    10. Could I buy it at a local market instead of this regional grocery store?

    I literally stop and ask myself these questions at every stop I make in the store – and probably a few more. Very few things answer all the questions in the manner I want them to. There are a few things that I compromise on most due to cost and convenience. Can we please give each other some breaks on this – people are just trying to make the best with what resources (time, money, patience) we have.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I am often times focused on so many different priorities I forget something else important (like I will get everything right, but then forget to see if it was organic). Shopping for something new can be quite the challenge!

  • Sherri

    Thanks for these tips. I really enjoy this blog and the 100 days blog. Lots of fun and thought provoking. On a related (sort of) note, has anyone out there done any research on homemade household cleaners? Thought I might look into that today.

  • Elizabeth

    I totally appreciate this particular post! We have two young children and both work outside the home, and although I do try to buy in bigger packages and pack in smaller containers when I can, these individually wrapped snacks come in really handy!!! My kids frequently take fruit leathers, raisins or nuts for snack, and I always have a LARA bar on hand for myself. I also bought an air popper (thanks to you!) and we’ll pop a batch on the weekend and divide it out for snacks during the week. I’m amazed at how my kids haven’t really missed all of the processed foods that we used to eat. They love the whole wheat waffles – that’s our special weekend treat. Keep the good stuff coming :)

    • So glad to hear that the information has been helpful and best of all that your children have been accepting! It is amazing how most of the time they will just eat what we give them, which just means that we have to make the right choices (and it sounds like you are!).

  • Cara

    I love reading your blog. We haven’t gone 100% real but we’re making great strides. My kids aren’t the problem, it’s my husband, I’m going to try some of these snacks on him (but in bulk as I try to avoid packaging) I also loved your post on your fridge…not only am I inspired by the contents but the organization!

    As far as Sherri’s question, between baking soda and vinegar, there won’t be much you can’t clean. I personally use Basic H (by Shaklee) for almost everything else. My mother owned a health food store in the 70′s and that’s one product we’ve used for over 30 years. Two drops and you’ve made your own glass cleaner (and saved a bottle), it’s safe to wash fruit/veggies in and it cleans everything. One bottle will last us about 1 1/2 years and I use it constantly. I also like the fact that I can let my 4 year old help and not worry. Hope that helps!

  • Heidi @ The Sweet Life

    I know this is an older post but I just found your blog and have been going through all of the posts. I have to say, this has been one of my favorites so far! I pack my husband’s lunch every day and these seem like great healthy items to send with him and to just keep around to snack on during the weekend.

  • Anne Scott

    I promise I’m not changing the subject, but I am jealous about the nut options you list. Our kids go to nut-free schools and it just makes it that much harder to come up with healthy lunchbox snacks.

  • Lucy

    My family loves the stretch island fruit snacks. I used to get them at Costco for around $10.50 for a 48 pack. I went a few weeks ago and Costco does not have them anymore. I checked a few other places and online and the cheapest I could find for the 48 pack was around $18.00…..Where do you purchase yours? Is there a better price than $18.00? I was also going to get some to sell in our Concession Stand for our athletic events.

    • I went to Costco to get these a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t have it. I went back a week later to return something and they had it again. That is my biggest pet peeve with Costco – they carry something for long enough to get people hooked and then they stop. ugh!

      Also, Amazon has the Stretch Island Fruit Leather for around $10 or $11 for 30 (all the same flavor). It is a bit more expensive per piece, but I frequently use my free gift cards from swagbucks to get this for free.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lucy. I find them at Target and the grocery store. Amazon has a pack of 30 for $12.80, so, I think your price sounds a little cheaper. Jill

  • Erica

    Very interesting post! I am very new to looking into real foods, etc. but a friend of mine that has already made the transition suggested I start with items that do NOT contain high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup. It has been VERY eye opening and I cannot believe the amount of products out there that contain that alone!
    As for the previous post about homemade cleaners, etc. We made our own laundry detergent, and it lasted us 2 years+! Only 3 ingredients and works just like anything that you would buy at the store. :) The link below is the “recipe” that we used to make it. The ingredients were less than $20, so it really was a money saver making a big batch and using it for 2+ years.
    http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/duggar_recipes/30456/powdered_laundry_detergent_top_load_machine

  • Jen

    I’ve seen some people asking why you need to have prepackaged food. I agree that the ease is sometimes a live saver. Another reason is that some schools require it if you’re sharing a snack with the class.

    This is our first year packing a lunch and I’ll include homemade goodies there, but if I send in a treat for a birthday or class party it MUST be prepackaged and this is in accordance with our DCFS licensing standards. This is the rule at the public elementary school as well as my 4 year old’s preschool. I’m a SAHM and I LOVE to bake, but even if I don’t use these items day to day, it’s a nice reminder for the occasions where my boys will be sharing with their class.

  • sarah

    Great post and I agree with other commments bagging up snacks ahead of time is easy & cheaper! But one point I want to make is about the popcorn….if it’s not organic or non-gmo verified I would say it’s a no go. GMO’s are super scary!!!

  • Katie Grace

    Another great item my kids love is organic baby/toddler food pouches. Target has quite a few choices. Plum and Happy Baby are two of our favorites. There are lots of different ones that combine fruits and veggies.

  • I stay at home (working PT) and have 4 kids and pack 5 lunches a day. I take some time whenever I get a chance (usually while I am waiting in the kitchen for something to cook) and fill bags or plastic containers with individual portions of food. I have a basket in my pantry that everyone knows is only for school lunches and I stash things in there. I am contemplating doing the same for the fridge.

    My kids also like yogurt, string cheese, boiled eggs, and pretzels for a grab & go snack.

  • You can buy individually wrapped apple slices and carrots too.Granted you have to refrigerate them, but they are there….

  • [...] Prepackaged Snacks for School (from “100 Days of Real Food” blog) [...]

  • Sherry

    I love all the fantastic ideas. I only wish our schools here allowed nuts but ALL nuts are banned and now seafood as well. It really limits our choices for lunches and we are a nut loving house. With kids who dislike sandwiches your suggestions are what keep us going, THANKS!

  • Cindy Hendricks

    Where can I find the prepackaged popcorn? I have looked everywhere for it. My son has celiac disease and can eat this brand. He also had Type 1 diabetes and the carb count on these individual bags are the exact count he can have for a snack without have to have insulin. They’re perfect for him to take if he goes on a playdate or for his school snacks. I just can’t find them!! Please let me know and thanks so much for all you do.

  • Amy

    I just wanted to share something I found today that reminded me of this post. : ) Skinny Pop Popcorn. The package says ALL NATURAL: cholesterol/dairy/trans fat/peanut/tree nut/gluten/preservative/GMO free…aaand made in the USA! Ingredients are: all natural popcporn, sunflower oil, & salt.

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