Note: This article is meant for entertainment purposes only. Please consult a dietitian or doctor for specific advice that fits your specific situation.
It’s so tempting to want to send unhealthy food– cookies, candy, you name it. (Guilty as charged!)
When I was sending care packages to John while he was deployed, he specifically requested healthier foods for one simple reason: healthy foods weren’t rotated often at the DFAC (military cafeteria) and he missed having a variety to choose from. Eating anything over and over again gets pretty boring.
So, I grabbed a shopping cart and a USPS flat-rate box and started shopping for healthy stuff to send over to John.
There were two requirements:
- it had to be healthy (obviously!)
- and it had to ship well (which means no chance of molding, getting stale, melting, packaging shattering, leaking, or ripping apart)
And to be honest, I didn’t just want to send John a bunch of granola bars and power bars. I mean. They’re great and everything and can be very tasty (and healthy, too)… but they can also be really boring after awhile.
And when you take those requirements into account while trying to find healthy stuff, it can be a little more challenging.
It’s a good thing I like challenges.
I’ve heard the same thing from many of Jo, My Gosh! readers. Whether you’re creating a healthy care package for college students, sending regular supplies to a missionary, or have a military member on a specific health regimen with dietary restrictions, there are delicious, healthy, and mailable options for every palate. Sending healthier foods can be a little tough. After all, you’re not going to throw greek yogurt in a box and ship it across the country.
I put together a list of care package-proof foods that are healthy, suit many different kinds of tastes, and should hold up being sent through the mail with the right packaging and precautions. If your recipient is adhering to a specific diet, make sure that you look at the ingredients of pre-packaged foods for information about fiber, sodium, vitamins, added sugars, minerals, and grams of protein, among other important information.
Sending food in the mail
But before we get started with the list, it’s important to note that sending food in a care package is a little different, especially if you’re sending to a hot area or if you don’t know how long shipping will take.
There are always variables when it comes to shipping depending on the situation your recipient is in and how you’re sending your care package. What works for someone may not work for your situation. You will want to stick to a few guidelines to make sure that your foods show up safe and consumable for your recipient.
- Don’t send fresh food. Instead, send dehydrated, freeze-dried, or canned versions.
- Don’t send foods that your recipient can’t prepare. For example, make sure that, if you’re sending microwaveable foods, they have a microwave available to them. This can be tricky for recipients who are missionaries or in the military. Just check first.
- If you want to send foods that take a little prep, try to stick to microwavable ones or ones that need just hot water to cook.
- Watch the temperature. Avoid sending things that can melt in hot months. (And definitely don’t send food that need to stay frozen or refrigerated.)
- Avoid foods that could leak and ruin the contents of your box or other mail while shipping. If you do have to send something that could leak, take precautions by
Still have questions? Use my guide on how to send food safely in the mail.
Granola bars, power bars, protein bars, and meal replacement bars
Let’s get the easiest category of healthy stuff out of the way, shall we? Granola bars, power bars, and meal replacement bars come as single serving, individually wrapped items that don’t need to be heated or eaten with silverware (or even a napkin). That makes them great grab-and-go options for members of the military, missionaries, and college students. It also makes them easy to share with others, which is always a plus when your care package recipient is living in an area with
- KIND bars
- Luna bars
- Clif bars
- Nature Valley granola bars
- Gra-yes-la Bars (homemade, shippable granola bars)
Spreads and condiments
There’s so much versatility when it comes to sending food in care packages when you stuff the box full of spreads, condiments, and spices. They add a lot of flavor and can change up the same old, same old that your recipient might be feeling– especially if they eat regularly from a cafeteria or find themselves bored by healthy snack regimens.
- peanut butter and single-serving nut butters
- salsa in plastic bottles or in single-serving cups
- olives: Try marinated ones in single-serving containers for an extra punch of flavor.
- honey and honeycomb: Try single-serving containers, flavored honeys, honey sticks, and raw honey for a twist on a favorite.
- dried herbs and spices: You can’t go wrong with everything bagel spice! Also consider sending microwavable popcorn and popcorn spices for a fun box that won’t break the bank.
- hot sauce: You’ll want to make sure that you carefully wrap and package hot sauce you send; the bottles can be fragile and can leak when broken, leaving a mess for the recipient. (Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen.)
- unsweetened cocoa: Unsweetened cocoa can be sprinkled onto cereal, pudding, or oatmeal to add a little bit of a chocolatey flavor without the calories or sugar of chocolate.
- whole grain mustard
Fruits and Veggies
You wouldn’t throw a hand of bananas into a box and ship it halfway across the world, but what about banana chips? Maybe your loved one can’t enjoy fresh peaches, but what about single-serving ones canned in juice or light syrup? There are lots of options for shelf-stable, nutritious real fruit and vegetables chock full of nutrients that you can send across the state or across the world.
- dried fruit (like dried apples, mango, raisins, and dried pineapple)
- dried veggies
- canned fruit: Keep them as healthy and low-calorie as possible by sending canned fruit packed in juice, water, or light syrup.
- canned veggies
- single-serving cups of fruit (like peaches and mandarin oranges)
- single-serving cups of veggies (like carrots and peas)
- fruit leather
- applesauce and other fruit/veggie blend pouches
- roasted edamame
- fruit chips
- tomato-based soups
Proteins, Nuts, Healthy Fats, and Seeds
Sending shelf-stable proteins in a care package is pretty darn easy. While it might depend on your recipient’s dietary restrictions and workout regimen (if they have one), there are a lot of options to keep it gastronomically interesting and meet nutrition needs.
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- Quinoa Breakfast Cookies
- protein powder
- nut butters (like almond butter, sunbutter, and peanut butter) and raw nuts (like pistachios, cashews, and brazil nuts)
- canned, cooked chicken breast
- single-serving tuna packets (Here’s how to send free StarKist Tuna!)
- canned tuna
- all-natural jerky (switch up the kinds of meat– beef jerky is just a jumping off point! You can err on the side of more common types of jerky like turkey or pork or go wild with exotic types like alligator or ostrich.)
- Flavored nut mixes like these homemade recipes: Cocoa Roasted Walnuts ,Pumpkin Pie Nut Mix ,Cinnamon Sea Salt Roasted Walnuts. and Lemon Pepper Roasted Walnuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- Canned chickpeas (canned can offer opportunities for various quick recipes like hummus) or flavored, roast chickpeas
- Healthy Choice Lunch Express meals
Snacks and grains
Who doesn’t love a good snack? One of the issues with sending snacks in the mail is that they’re often fragile (think broken chips) and the bags are filled with air, so you’re not sending as much as you can in the box and not getting as much bang for your buck as you could. But snacks mean comfort and fun… and they don’t have to be trail mix! They’re often a great way to improve morale whether your recipient is going through a military deployment or college final exams.
- whole wheat cereals
- instant oatmeal
- air-popped chips
- baked tortilla chips
- Annie’s All Natural Microwavable Mac and Cheese
- dark chocolate
- baked naan chips
- Low-Cal Lemon Cornbread Cookies
- graham crackers
- Terra Mediterranean Chips
- rice cakes
- multigrain crackers
- vegetable crisps
- low-fat fig newtons
- 100% fruit juice snacks
- No-Bake Pecan & Oat Bars
- healthy cookies: Try Bakeology vegan cookie bites and Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookies
- lentil chips
- Low-Cal Chocolate Cherry Cookies
- Wheat-Thin Wanna-Be Crackers
- cracker packs
- herbal teas
- Horizon Organic Milk
- single-serving fruit juices
- Drink enhancers: Try liquid ones like Mio or powdered ones like Gatorade
Healthy care package ideas
While you can just take a bunch of healthy stuff, put it in a box and call it a day (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that!) you can also craft some fun care package themes around these tasty treats. Consider these ideas that work for military deployments, missionaries far awayf rom home, or college students:
- Baby We Were Born to Run: Send a Bruce Springsteen themed care package that also encourages your recipient in their running journey with healthy non-perishable snacks. Whether they’re just getting started, training for a longer race, or are an experienced runner, stuff the box with their favorite training treats, socks, and running-themed gifts.
- Souper Bowl: This care package theme is perfect in January and Feburary when the actual Super Bowl is happening… but you can always send soups, crackers, and other accompaniments whenever you want!
- F-Words: Send a lot of tuna fish packets, fruit leather, fruit cups, and dried fruit to your recipient with a cheeky F-words box. Don’t tell them what it stands for… see if they can figure it out!
- Honey : Send a little honey to your honey with a sweet honey and bee-themed care package. There are tons of honey-flavored foods that are mailable… but you can also send foods in yellow packages and teas to round out the box.
Looking For More Care Package Ideas? Try These:
- 40 Ways to Save Money on Care Packages
- The Gigantic List of Free Care Packages for Deployed Service Members
- Here’s What Troops Really Want in a Care Package