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LunchBox Edition – Processed food alternatives

Guest Post: by Kensey Goebel, Contributing Author

With back to school approaching fast, we often find ourselves turning to processed snacks because they are prepackaged and easy to grab on the go and to pack with lunches. A lot of times these prepackaged snacks are filled with added sugar, calories and preservatives. Here are some simple recipes that can be made ahead of time and packed with lunches. This way you know exactly what you and your kids are eating because you made them yourself.

Granola Bars are a easy snack and they are full of nutrients to keep you full and keep your brain focused while at school. Here is a recipe to make your own granola bars. You can modify the recipe by adding your favorite ingredients such as dried fruit, chocolate chips, peanut butter, or anything else. 


Peanut Butter Coconut Granola Bars
Serves 8
Healthy and Easy to make Granola Bar Recipe
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  1. 2 1/4 cups rolled oats
  2. ¼ cup shredded coconut (without added sugar)
  3. ½ cup applesauce
  4. 1/3 cup peanut butter (sub any nut butter here)
  5. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  6. 1/3 cup raw honey or maple syrup
  7. 1 T milk
  8. 3 T chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix wet into another.
  3. You may need to heat the peanut butter a little. Combine wet to dry.
  4. Line a pan with parchment paper. I do this because it is so easy to just lift them out of the pan and cut with a knife.
  5. Bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes. Let them cool completely before cutting.
  6. I store them in a plastic container separated by parchment paper. They should keep for about two weeks - I keep them in the refrigerator and pull them out when needed for our lunches or snacks.
Kids Kitchen
Fruit Leather – Have you ever looked at the label on a fruit roll up. Here is an example of one here:{61B5F938-8BBC-4690-897E-7CE7E198FA8C}

They contain pear concentrate, sugar and corn syrup along with artificial coloring and preservatives. They taste yummy but this product along with most other fruit snacks or gummies actually contain little or no fruit and a lot of added sugar and artificial flavorings to make it taste the like fruit. Here is a much healthier homemade version that your kids can even help make. These do take some time but they can easily be prepared overnight.

I started out with a few jars and chopped strawberries, then pureed them into a liquid and put them on parchment paper and cooked on a low heat overnight. Hint, if you don’t want to wait quite as long, you can put the pureed mixture into a saucepan and cook it on medium low for about 3o minutes to reduce the water content, then you can follow the directions below and cook for about 3 hours instead of the full time. 

Image 1Image

Natural Fruit Rollup
Yields 12
A healthier, more natural version of fruit roll up
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
  1. 4 baskets of strawberries (or your favorite type of berries)
  2. 1/4 C agave nectar
  3. butter for greasing
  1. 1. Line 2 12"x17" jelly roll pans with parchment paper
  2. 2. Grease paper with butter
  3. 3. Remove stems from berries and place in blender
  4. 4. Add agave to blender and puree
  5. 5. Divide mixture evenly into two pans and spread thin with spatula
  6. 6. Heat oven to 150 F
  7. 7. Place plan in oven with door cracked slightly
  8. 8. When fruit is no longer sticky to the touch (around 10-12 hours), remove from oven and cut fruit with paper still attached into 2" strips
  9. 9. Roll tight and place in air tight container
  1. Any type of berry would work (even frozen berries)
Adapted from Out of the box food
Kids Kitchen

Lunchables are an easy go to meal for lunch because they are prepackaged and cheap, however they are high in sodium and unneeded ingredients. For example, the extra cheesy Oscar Meyer Pizza Lunchable (always was my favorite growing up) has 270 calories, 10 g of fat and 630 mg of sodium and more than 30 ingredients total! You can easily make this on your own and with way less sodium and far fewer ingredients by getting a divided container, adding pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and follow this recipe for the crust. These crusts can be made ahead of time and frozen and pulled out as needed.

Miniture Pizza Crust-lunchable style
Yields 16
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  1. 1 packet yeast
  2. 1 1/4 C warm water
  3. 3 C bread flour
  4. 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  5. 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 475
  2. 2. Add yeast to warm water, mix and allow to sit for 10 minutes
  3. 3. Mix flour, salt and olive oil then add yeast and mix until smooth and elastic (with electric mixture or knead by hand)
  4. 4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour
  5. 5. Divide dough into 16 small balls and allow to rise on sheet for 45 minutes.
  6. 6. Place on preheated baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes
  1. You can store in air tight container for 3 days or freeze and use as needed
Adapted from Out of the box food
Kids Kitchen
We wish you the best with going back to school. Hoping that some of these ideas and recipes help you kick-start a great year!

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One Response to LunchBox Edition – Processed food alternatives

  1. MoMo 08-18-2014 at 11:19 PM #

    Informative article!!