ATLANTA - Every parent who has ever shopped for lunchbox snacks has faced the same question: what do you buy?
"It's hard to navigate the minefield that is out there, and understand what is healthy and what's not," says Dr. Taz Bhatia, the founder of CentreSpring MD, an integrative and holistic medicine practice in Atlanta.
As a physician and mother, Dr. Taz says there are some snack foods she will not pack in her children's lunches.
She calls them "lunch box liabilities."
One of those foods is tiny fish-shaped crackers we eat by the fistful.
According to the website CalorieKing.com, one 55-piece serving contains 230 mg of sodium, about 10% of our recommended daily amount.
Processed cheese-flavored crackers are equally high in salt.
And toaster tarts, Dr. Taz says, are packed with added sugars.
"Sure, as a once-in-a-while treat, yes," says Dr. Taz. "But a daily snack that is showing up in lunchboxes every day? No."
She also avoids chewy fruit-flavored snacks, saying they can be high in added sugar and can stick to children's teeth.
"But, you're tempted because they're sweet, and it's because of the sugar," she says. "And the "fruit" in front of fruit roll-ups makes you think you're not doing anything unhealthy.
Taz says fresh fruit is actually a much healthier option.
Another lunchbox no-no? Fruit juice.
"Fruit juice has zero nutritional value," Dr. Taz says. "It's purely sugar. It's purely fructose."
Same thing with lunchtime sodas.
"I think sodas are an absolute no-no," she says. "There is no reason for children or even teenagers to be drinking sodas. It's just a sugar load and a load of carbonation that we don't think is good for their gut or their digestive health.
Instead, nutritional experts recommend kids drink water with their lunch.
Dr. Taz recommends snacks like fresh fruit, and cut up raw vegetables with dips, like hummus.
She also packs cut up cheese with crackers, preferably whole grain crackers.
Finding healthy school snacks may take some trial and error, and Dr. Taz admits she's had some "epic fails" when trying to buy snacks for her own children.
"But, honestly, once you get it down, you can find maybe the 10 healthy that your kid will eat," she says. "Just repeat that over and over again. Have it stocked in your pantry, and you're ready to go."