5 Healthy Superfoods Your Kids Will Want to Take for Lunch

No one said packing a healthy lunch day after day was easy. It's not. You can pack a great lunch, only to have it swapped for junk or discarded in the cafeteria trash. Or you can resort to packaged foods that you know your kid will eat, but which may be loaded with salt, sugar and empty calories. That's why choosing a few cleverly prepared superfoods can be a great way to make sure your kid is getting the nutrients he needs - and in a form he'll eat. Related: How to Make Food Shopping Healthy

Carrots are the No. 1 kid-friendly source of vitamin A and beta carotene, two essential nutrients for strong vision in the classroom, strong bones on the playground and a strong immune system for the crowded school bus. Carrots are also a top source of lycopene, a disease-fighting phytonutrient.

The good news is that kids will often eat carrots plain and raw. Cut them into kid-friendly spears, or get creative with the cutting board to keep enticing them. Be aware, however, that carrots have made the list of dirty dozen foods high in pesticide residue, and childhood exposure to pesticide residue has been recently been linked to attention deficit disorders, among other potential health problems. Buy USDA-certified organic carrots to avoid pesticide residue. Related: How to Raise Chemical Free Kids

For a shot of calcium at lunch, nothing beats yogurt, but did you know plain yogurt is also a top source of potassium, a key nutrient for young hearts, muscles and bones? The problem is finding a way to dress yogurt up for a kid-friendly lunch, particularly if you're avoiding the many yogurts on the market that are overloaded with extra sugars.

One great strategy is to send your kid to school not only with yogurt, but with some of her favorite whole grain cereals and fruits for toppings. Because dairy products can retain unwanted chemicals to which cows were exposed, you may want to choose organic yogurt. Look for yogurt packaged in containers that are BPA-free (avoid plastics marked with recycling codes 3 and 7). Related: 5 Healthy School Lunches

Trail Mix
Trail mix comes in all forms. The trick is to find a mix that is both healthy and kid-friendly. Experiment to find the right balance for your kid, because it can be a great source of healthy superfoods, like sunflower seeds (the top source of vitamin E), pumpkin seeds (a top source of iron), nuts (a top source of vitamin E and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids) and raisins (a top source of potassium). And remember, chocolate is a superfood too, so don't be afraid to sprinkle a few chips in to make the mix more enticing.

Be careful to buy nuts that haven't been roasted in too much oil (for extra nutrition, you might want to try them raw). And be aware that grapes and raisins are on the list of dirty dozen foods likely to have high pesticide residue levels, so buy organic to avoid exposing your kid to potentially harmful chemicals. Related: 6 Steps to a Balanced Meal

Sweet Potato
The humble sweet potato is a cheap, nutrient-dense food that's the No. 1 source of potassium (it has way more than bananas) and a top source of vitamin A and beta carotene, making it a superfood for the heart, skeleton, muscles, eyes, immune system and bones. The problem is getting kids to eat sweet potatoes, particularly in a cold lunch. At home, you might try a simple sweet potato mash with a dab of butter or sweet potato fries. For the brown bag lunch, try baked sweet potato chips for a kid-friendly snack. Related: The Dirty Secrets of 6 Scandalous Foods

Red Peppers

Vitamin C is a powerful ally for kids trying to ward off or recover from colds. But did you know that kiwis have as much vitamin C as oranges and that red sweet peppers have twice as much of the disease-fighting nutrient? (The guava has even more vitamin C, but isn't the easiest fruit to pack in a lunch, though it can be used in a delicious Hawaiian breakfast smoothie.) Swap out oranges for a kiwi or red pepper every so often for some variety - and a splash of color. Be aware that bell peppers have been on the list of dirty dozen foods likely to have high pesticide residue levels, so buy organic to avoid exposing your kid to potentially harmful chemicals. Related: 10 Healthy Green Snack Tips for School Kids

: More Superfood Lunch Ideas

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