Grocery Store Swaps: Building A Healthy Lunchbox

By Carrie Rutledge, Longevity Patient Coordinator 



I try to pack a healthy school lunchbox for my daughter every day to help fuel her for a full day of learning. The options at the grocery store can be overwhelming, but my main focus is on avoiding toxic ingredients, especially hydrogenated oils. These include seed and vegetable oils like Canola, Soybean, and Sunflower Oil, and they contribute to high systemic inflammation. Studies continue to come out linking these highly-processed oils to autoimmune disorders, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer! 


I look for snacks that contain more stable and nutritious oils, like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and ghee, and even lard, tallow, and duck fat! Here are just a few simple swaps you can make to your child’s lunchbox to make sure it’s nutrient-dense and free from harmful oils that impair their immune system, mood, and cognitive function. 



Options like Uncrustables and most store-bought breads, peanut butter, and jelly are high in soybean and other vegetable oils. 


Swaps: Instead of Jif Peanut Butter, opt for organic almond butter, or the less expensive option of all-natural peanut butter (made from just dry roasted peanuts and salt). 

Instead of regular bread, opt for Ezekiel bread, which is organic and glyphosate-free. You can also get organic sourdough from your local bakery or farmer’s market, or even make your own!  


Bread, almost all made from vegetable oil – Swap for Ezekiel bread – organic and glyphosate free – only store bought option I can find

Sourdough from a local bakery or farmer’s market – or make your own sourdough



Studies show that when most store-bought chips are fried in either corn or sunflower oil, the snack contains up to 200 times more of the toxic chemical aldehyde-which has been linked with most major diseases-than what is considered safe. Olive oil, butter, and coconut oil on the other hand, yielded far lower levels of aldehyde.


Swaps: Popcorn (made with coconut oil), Seaweed Snacks (made with olive oil), or Olives (to satisfy that salt craving!) 


Granola and Cereal Bars 

Grains, fruit and nuts are good for us! But don’t be fooled by even the healthiest looking bars lining the grocery store shelves. Many of these bars contain partially hydrogenated oil, as well as high levels of added sugars and artificial ingredients. 


Swap: Lara Bars are made with just a couple ingredients, like dates and cashews!  


Fruit Snack and Roll-Ups 

Many of these fruity options are made with partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, not to mention dyes, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. 


Swap: Look for minimally processed items. The sugar in fruit makes them sweet enough, and when dried, the sweetness is even more concentrated. At my house we love Mango Bites and Jerky!  For another sweet treat, we love Unreal Chocolate because it has minimal ingredients and healthy fats! 


Beware of Tricky Packaging and Marketing Jargon 

Food companies go to great lengths to target both children and their parents! Labels will use phrases like “gluten-free,” “made with whole grains,” and “natural.” These claims are riddled with loopholes! Don’t be swayed by the green writing, ambiguous wording, or pictures of plants or other healthy-looking images. Read labels and understand what the terms mean, who backs it, and its validity!