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5 Healthy Lunches and Snacks for Kids


Article by Jennifer Anderson w/ Kids Eat in Color

Photography by Jennifer Anderson

As parents, one of our biggest priorities is ensuring that our kids are getting the nutrients they need. But getting them to eat their fruits and vegetables isn’t always easy, especially if your kids are picky eaters like many seem to be. 

As a mom of two little boys, I know how stressful it can be to feed your kids. But it’s important to establish healthy eating habits early in their life so they establish a taste for a variety of nutritious foods.

Let’s talk about the benefits of introducing healthy food to your kids at an early age. Read on to find helpful information about feeding picky eaters, plus some healthy lunch and snack recipes for kids.

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4 Benefits of Healthy Lunches and Snacks for Kids to Eat

Nutrition Is Essential to Kids’ Development

My first child fell off the growth chart, and I learned how much effort can go into feeding a child. Kids develop quickly in the first few years of life, so incorporating a variety of nutritious foods is essential to their growth and development. 

Balanced Nutrition Leads to Healthy Kids

Feeding your child a variety of foods is the key to getting them many different types of nutrients. Each food and group of food helps your child's body in a different way. For example, foods high in fat such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and more support your child's brain development. 

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help your child fight off illnesses. If your child is struggling to eat veggies, don't worry about feeding them more fruit while they are learning to eat more veggies. For those kids who won't eat fruits and veggies, keep having them available at meals so that they can learn to like them. 

White and brown foods such as cauliflower and whole grains have plant compounds as well. All the colors count

Healthy Eating as Children Equals Healthy Eating as Adults

When little kids learn to eat fruits and vegetables at an early age, they are more likely to continue eating healthy foods as adults. So many of our tastes and eating patterns begin in childhood. 

Colorful Food Provides Essential Nutrients

Different plant compounds have colors that give food their colors. For example, beta carotene is a plant compound that makes carrots orange. Each plant compound does something different in your body, which is why eating lots of different colors helps keep our bodies healthy. 

Sometimes people think of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple as the only "colorful" foods. White and brown foods such as cauliflower and whole grains have plant compounds as well. All the colors count!

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3 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

Make Snacks and Mealtime Fun

We all know that kids like to play and have fun, so why not make food fun? Whether you're turning broccoli into a microphone at dinner, or playing tic-tac-toe with edible carrot sticks, kids get into it. 

They also love trying new utensils, helping prepare food, and using new kitchen tools. The more fun they have, the more they are willing to try new things and eat more foods.

Kids, especially kids who may be picky or selective, often like a little bit of novelty. There are lots of ways to add a little bit of novelty without spending a lot of time. 

My top recommendation is toothpicks.I call it "toothpick magic." Whenever your child is ready to use toothpicks, try it with any food that they are hesitant to eat and see what happens. It's hard for kids and adults to resist eating food off a toothpick. 

We also love silicone muffin cups, mini cookie cutters, food picks and fun silverware.  

I also love our stainless steel lunch boxes. If you're trying to decide which one is best for you, I wrote a surprisingly honest review of the 16 most popular stainless steel lunch boxes on the Kids Eat in Color blog.

Don’t Give Up

Parents often assume that if a child doesn't eat a food the first or second time it's served the child doesn't like the food. Teaching kids to eat a variety of foods is a long game. Many children may need to see or taste a food 10 or 20 times before they are willing to eat it. 

Especially selective kids may need hundreds of exposures before they learn to like a new food. What's important is that as parents, we don't give up. A child will never learn to eat a food that isn't on the table. 

If you're struggling with a picky eater, I highly recommend the Kids Eat in Color® free picky eater guide (at that walks parents through how to help a picky child eat more foods.

Forcing Healthy Foods on Kids Often Backfires

Another assumption is that we have to make kids eat healthy foods. Often, making a child eat food or eat a certain amount of food backfires. 

It may backfire in the short run by making a child more selective and less likely to eat the foods you want them to eat. It can also backfire in the long run and make it hard for a child to tell when they are hungry or full. 

If you've ever felt a compulsion to finish your plate even after you feel full, that may come from your previous experiences of having to finish your plate. 

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Best Healthy Lunch and Snack Ideas and Recipes

Midnight Mediterranean Pasta - From Affordable Flavors

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30-40 minutes


  • 8 ounces whole wheat (or regular) linguine 
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup canned tomato, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3-½ cups fresh spinach


  1. In medium-sized pot, bring water to boil. Cook whole wheat linguine according to instructions
  2.  In large pan, heat up oil. Once heated, add chopped garlic. Cook until lightly browned.
  3.  Add tomato, chickpeas, oregano, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Bring to simmer
  4.  Add spinach and cook until wilted
  5.  Strain linguine and add to pan; stir well to incorporate
  6.  Remove from heat and enjoy!

Date Balls - From Real Easy Weekdays meal plan

Prep Time: 15 minutes


  • 3⁄4 cup / 180 mL sunflower seed butter
  • 1⁄4 cup / 60 mL pumpkin seeds (called pepitas)
  • 1 and 1⁄3 cup / 220 g pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 mL vanilla
  • 4 Tablespoons / 60 mL cocoa or cacao powder 1⁄8 teaspoon / 1.25 mL salt
  • Hemp or chia seeds, optional


  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor (not a blender)
  2. Process until smooth (longer than you think)
  3. Roll into balls
  4. Roll in hemp seeds or chia seeds if desired

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

This goes great with raw veggies like celery, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, and cauliflower. Basically any veggie that your kids might like raw. It also goes great with whole grain crackers, pita chips, and probably plantain chips (although I’ve not tried that yet).


  • ½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ to 1 Tablespoon of Trader Joe’s Onion Salt (alternatives include Ranch dressing mix, onion salt, or a combination of onion powder and garlic powder)


  1. Mix Greek yogurt with seasoning. Serve.
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Green Strawberry Smoothie - From Real Easy Weekdays meal plan

Yield: two 10-oz smoothies

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 0


  • 2 cups / 235 mL baby spinach, packed 1 ripe banana
  • 1⁄2 cup / 120 mL frozen blueberries
  • 1⁄2 cup / 120 mL frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup / 235 mL full-fat milk of choice
  • 1 Tbs. / 15 mL hemp hearts, optional
  • 2 Tbs. / 30 mL nut/seed butter of choice Sprinkles, optional


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients. Process until smooth.
  2. Transfer smoothie to two glasses. Top with sprinkles, if desired.


  • Use alternative milk and ensure sprinkles are dairy-free
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Pan-Fried Tuna Patties with Baked Sweet Potato Fries - From Affordable Flavors meal plan

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes 


For Tuna Patties:

  • 2 (12 ounce) cans of tuna (drained)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup flour, (or sub with breadcrumbs)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons oil 

For Baked Sweet Potato Fries:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ketchup for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and then slice sweet potatoes into fry shapes. Toss sweet potato fries in oil in large bowl.
  2. Lay fries on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Roast fries in oven for 25 minutes
  4. While fries cook, in separate medium size bowl, mix all tuna patty ingredients except for butter and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Form 1 inch thick patties from tuna mixture. In a large skillet, add butter and oil on medium heat.
  6. Add 3-4 patties to pan at a time. Fry patties until golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes each side.
  7. Sweet potato fries are done when slightly crispy and fork tender. Enjoy by themselves or with ketchup. 

Start Healthy Habits Early

The key takeaway here is to introduce healthy foods to your child at an early age. Be patient with your pickiest of eaters, and re-introduce a food several times. Stick with it; their long-term health habits depend on it!

Children tend to mimic adults, so try to be a good example and eat the foods you want them to eat. Your health will benefit too! Try to make snacks and mealtime fun for your kids so they will want to participate and develop a healthy relationship with food.


About the Author

Jennifer Anderson is a registered dietitian with a masters of science in public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the founder and CEO of Kids Eat In Color - the world’s leading resource for helping get kids on the path to eating better without the mealtime battles.