Almost every eco-savvy parent is familiar with the lunch box dilemma—what to send the children to school with that’s nutritious and fun, yet keeps Mother Nature in mind. Sadly, most prepackaged convenience snacks geared towards tykes offer little true nourishment. Plus, the excessive packaging and processing makes them the SUV of snack foods when it comes to environmental impact, says Utah-based dietitian Kate Geagan, author of Go Green, Get Lean (Rodale Books). Children, she writes, “require healthy, nutrient-packed snacks to help sustain energy levels, promote a healthy body weight and development, and foster healthful eating skills.” So, we spun our wheels through the aisles for back-to-school staples, and found these time-saving nutritious snack and lunch options that toss in some environmental do-goodery for good measure.
O.N.E. Coconut Water
(www.onenaturalexperience.com; $1.69-$1.99/11 oz.)
Why kids will love it: The translucent liquid from young green coconuts has a satisfying tangy-sweet flavor. The pineapple and passion fruit flavors will win them over too.
Why nutritionists approve: Each carton has 50% more potassium than a banana and three times less sugar than most cans of soda. And what sweet stuff coconut water does have is 100% natural.
Two green thumbs up: Their carbon-neutral packaging plant runs on renewable energy and the Tetra Pak cartons have an excellent product-to-package ratio, with the paper being gleaned fromresponsibly sourced, well-managed forests.
FruitaBü Organic Fruit Rolls
(www.fruitabu.com; $3.69/box of 8)
Why kids will love it: Smooshed fruit for the picky cafeteria crowd that makes eating apples and strawberries fun.
Why nutritionists approve: A clean, high fructose corn syrup-free organic ingredient line with all sugar coming naturally from the fruit. Though each one is equal to a serving of fruit, make sure your little one gets plenty of the real thing.
Two green thumbs up: Company supports the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, which plants fruit tree orchards at schools across the country.
Bear Naked Organic Trail Mix
(www.bearnaked.com; $3.99/5 oz.)
Why kids will love it: Sweet but also buttery thanks to the cashews. All the kids on the playground will wanna swap.
Why nutritionists approve: “Bearly” processed—just filling, heart-healthy nuts and nutrient-dense unsweetened dried fruits.
Two green thumbs up: You can mail empty Bear Naked packages to TerraCycle (on their dime), who will repurpose the bags into “upcycled” umbrellas, shower curtains and other accessories.
Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce Cups
Why kids will love it: A smooth, saucy blend in enticing flavors like apple apricot and apple blackberry.
Why nutritionists approve: No added sugar and 100% of kids’ requirement for vitamin C in each cup.
Two green thumbs up: Squished apples come sans pesticides and a 96% recycling rate for productionin their overhauled energy-efficient digs has earned Santa Cruz waste reduction awards.
ZenSoy Organic Pudding
Why kids will love it: Chocolate and banana versions taste like, well, old-fashioned chocolate and banana pudding.
Why nutritionists approve: Beefed up with extra calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Two green thumbs up: A family biz that forgoes genetically modified soybeans and donates 5% of all profits to boost wildlife conservation.
World of Grains Cookies
(www.worldofgrains.com; $3.99/4-pouch box)
Why kids will love them: Crunchy, mildly sweet biscuit-type cookies that taste more naughty than nice.
Why nutritionists approve: A calorie-controlled, low-fat mélange of several whole grains, fruit and omega-3 rich flaxseed that makes for a filling, wholesome snack.
Two green thumbs up: The company supports Conservation International and the recyclable cookie box is produced using wind power.
(www.firstjuice.com; $1.99-$2.79/8 oz.)
Why kids will love it: Vibrant colors (purple carrots, who knew?) and a spill-proof sippy top keeps messes at bay.
Why nutritionists approve: Half the sugar of most other juices so it doesn’t cultivate a sweet tooth in young children. Each bottle is fortified with key nutrients toddlers need: calcium and vitamins A, C and D.
Two green thumbs up: A blend of organic fruit and vegetables packaged in BPA- and phthalate-free reusable and recyclable containers.
CLIF Kid Organic ZBars
Why kids will love it: The bars—reminiscent of chewy oatmeal cookies—will satisfy corner store junk-food cravings. Why nutritionists approve: Chock-full of vitamins and minerals, and whole-grain oats to help balance energy levels.
Two green thumbs up: All the green-minded company’s CO2 emissions are offset through partnering with NativeEnergy to help build farmer-owned wind turbines. And CLIF uses only 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard for their packaging.
Kopali Organic Chocolate Covered Bananas
(www.kopali.com; $3.99/2 oz.)
Why kids will love it: Chocolate and banana: Enough said!
Why nutritionists approve: Dark chocolate and dried bananas provide a slew of antioxidants. Way better than most chocolate snacks marketed to kids.
Two green thumbs up: Chocolate is certified fair trade as part of Kopali’s commitment to sourcing ingredients only from small-scale organic family farms abroad.
MATTHEW KADEY is a Canadian-based dietitian and freelance journalist.