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Send your kids to school with healthy, tasty treats

Instead of the same tired, old lunch-box snacks, why not send your kids off to school with healthy bites loaded with as many nutrients and vitamins as possible, with a minimum of preservatives, added fat, and calories? Here are our picks of some the healthiest prepackaged snacks, all taste-tested by the ultimate authorities: kids aged 3 to 16. The munchies featured here are packaged to grab and go
/ Source: Epicurious

Instead of the same tired, old lunch-box snacks, why not send your kids off to school with healthy bites loaded with as many nutrients and vitamins as possible, with a minimum of preservatives, added fat, and calories? Here are our picks of some the healthiest prepackaged snacks, all taste-tested by the ultimate authorities: kids aged 3 to 16.

The munchies featured here are packaged to grab and go, and available widely in the United States. Look for them at your local supermarket, health food store, or Whole Foods, and grab a few extras for your own lunch box — Epicurious' grown-up editors loved these treats, too.

Fruity favorites

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  • Santa Cruz Organic Apple-Blackberry Sauce: Old-school applesauce gets an upgrade with this blend of organic apples and blackberries. A four-ounce cup has 100 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C, only 70 calories, and is naturally fat-free. But how's the flavor? Three-year-old Logan said: "Wow! This is tasty!" In addition to the blackberry blend, there are apricot-apple, blueberry-apple, raspberry-apple, and plain apple cups. (scojuice.com)



  • left/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/kopaliorganicschocolatemulberries.jpg518018000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseKopali Organics Dark Chocolate Covered Mulberries: "These are superfancy Raisinets," proclaimed ten-year-old William. The dark chocolate and mulberries are packed with antioxidants, and 20 pieces have just 140 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat, making them a great snack for kids and adults alike. Plus, Kopali Organic uses only fair trade, organic ingredients. The company also makes dark chocolate–covered bananas, goji berries (a very of-the-moment superfood), cacao nibs, and espresso beans, though the latter two are probably best reserved for Mom and Dad's lunch box because of their caffeine content. (kopaliorganics.com)



  • Funky Monkey Freeze-Dried Fruit: Unlike most conventional dried fruit, these sweet right/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/funkymonkeyfreezedriedfruit.jpg518018000right#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1Pfalsefalsecrunchy bites have no added sugar or preservatives. There are four varieties: Bananamon, with banana and cinnamon; Carnival Mix, made with banana, apple, papaya, and raisins; Javalime, with pineapple and lime; and our favorite, Purple Funk, with banana and trendy antioxidant superstar açaí. Each one-ounce bag contains three servings of fruit and has a good amount of fiber and potassium. They're very munchable, especially to four-year-old Lina, who claimed to "really like this one." (funkymonkeysnacks.com)



  • left/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/daniellecrispyfruitchips.jpg518020000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseDanielle Crispy Fruit Chips: These all-natural, preservative-free chips are made from real fruits and veggies, such as banana, pineapple, pumpkin, and taro. The fruits and veggies are then sprayed with nonhydrogenated palm oil and "vacuum fried," a method that, according to the company, allows the products to retain their flavor and absorb little oil. The chips are sweet and crispy but still relatively low in fat and calories: A 28-gram serving has 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and zero grams of trans fat. Our testers particularly liked the jackfruit, which tastes like a blend of pineapple and bananas — something four-year-old Lina appreciated when she commented, "This is good." (daniellechips.com)



  • FruitaBü Organic Smooshed Fruit: Are your kids Fruit Roll-Ups fans? If so, the Smooshed right/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/fruitbuorganicsmooshedfruit.jpg518018000right#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseStrawberry Fruit Twirls version of fruit leather is the best you can buy: It's made of organic strawberries and apples — two fruits that are normally very high in pesticides when purchased in nonorganic form. Kids found them to be chewy and satisfying. "I would have to say this is a whole lot better than the old Fruit Roll-Ups I've been used to having," said ten-year-old William. (fruitabu.com)

Crunchy and savory

  • left/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/goodhealthnaturalpeanutbutterpretzels.jpg518018000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseGood Health Natural Foods Peanut Butter Pretzels: Ten of these supersatiating, peanut-butter-filled pretzels have only 140 calories and one gram of saturated fat. Their mix of carbs, fiber, and protein makes them the perfect pre- or post-sports snack. "It has a really good amount of salty peanut butter and crunchy pretzel. I could eat a whole lot of these, but I'd want some water," said ten-year-old Sanger. (goodhealthnaturalproducts.com)



  • Food Should Taste Good Chips: These gluten-, trans fat–, and cholesterol-free chips right/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/foodshouldtastegoodchips.jpg518020000right#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1Pfalsefalsewere winners in our healthy snacks for adults taste test, and now they get the thumbs-up from kids too. Four of the company's chip varieties — Multigrain, Jalapeño, Olive, and Chocolate — recently became available in one-ounce packages that are perfect for lunch boxes. The newest varieties — Sweet Potato, Buffalo, and The Works! — will be sold in the small bags this fall. Martin, 14, enthused about the jalapeño: "Tastes like Indian food!" His brother Aidan, 16, agreed, but noted, "surprisingly not much of a kick, though." (foodshouldtastegood.com)



  • left/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/wholefoods365veggiechips.jpg518018000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseWhole Foods 365 Veggie Chips: Jason, age six, was reluctant to try this lower-fat substitute for a potato chip, as it had the dreaded word "veggie" on the package. But he changed his mind upon tasting: "I like them so much, I want another bag." It's a good thing these crispy multicolored chips — made from potato flour, tomato purée, and spinach powder — are packaged in portion-controlled one-ounce bags with just 130 calories each, because adult tasters agreed that they're seriously addictive. (wholefoodsmarket.com)



Cookies and bars

  • Barbara's Bakery Vanilla Snackimals: Made with organic flour and without hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup, these cute cookies are a healthier version of the old animal cracker. Six-year-old Jason rejected other such types of cookies but loved Barbara's Bakery version, describing them as "cracker-ific." (barbarasbakery.com)



  • Carman's Apricot and Almond Muesli Bar: This wheat- and preservative-free granola bar has nice chunks of almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and apricots. It also contains plenty of fiber. "Well, I'm not always a granola bar lover, but this one is really kind of good," said ten-year-old Sanger. (carmansfinefoods.com.au)



  • World of Grains All Natural Whole Grain Snacks: Aidan, 16, gave the thumbs-up to the right/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/worldofgrainsallnaturalwholegrain.jpg518018000right#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseBlueberry version of these hearty cookies: "They're tasty, with a real blueberry aroma." His ten-year-old brother, Owen, loved the Multigrain version. The cookies are also available in Cranberry, Apple-Cinnamon, and Oatmeal-Raisin. All five varieties are made with whole grains (whole wheat, oats, amaranth, quinoa, ground flaxseed, and more) and one 1.06-ounce pack has three grams of fiber, three grams of protein, and only 130 calories. (http://www.worldofgrains.com/index.htm)



  • left/msnbc/Sections/TVNews/Today show/Today Food_Wine/2008/08- August/odwallabars.jpg518018000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseOdwalla Bars: "By far, my most favorite snack bar I've tried in forever," is how ten-year-old Sanger described Odwalla's Chocolate Chip Peanut Bar, which has eight grams of protein. William, also ten, approved of the "chewy and gooey" Berries GoMega, which has 1,000 milligrams of vegetarian omega 3s (from ground flax). Note that these bars have 250 and 220 calories, respectively, so they're best saved for active days. (odwalla.com)



For more ideas on cooking for and with kids, recipes for portable lunches, and more, go to Epicurious' Back- to-School package.

Turkey pinwheels

Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, "Real Food For Healthy Kids"

Mini-whoopee pies

Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, "Real Food For Healthy Kids"

For more ideas on cooking for and with kids, recipes for portable lunches, and more, go to Epicurious' Back- to-School package.