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School Lunch

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What should a parent do when a child only wants to buy school lunch and it isn't healthy, or a child is bored with the lunches you pack from home? And really, does one meal a day make a difference? Yes. When kids get used to eating high fat food, this can form a long-term habit (fat does taste good). The time to set permanent healthy behavior is early and reinforcing during school is no exception.

Depending on the age of your child, have her help plan lunch or even prepare part of it. This can be done just once or twice a week to get your child involved.

Remember that children love to get out and play and sometimes will eat very little so they can have more time on the school playground. Packing a snack for early or late recess may be a good idea (peanuts and cashews are full of fiber and protein). Don't be upset with them if their lunch is only half consumed. She is just a social butterfly. Offer sliced peaches and plain yogurt when she gets home. Make a fruit smoothie with your son using frozen fruit, vanilla yogurt, and milk.

Talk to your child about the lunch program and help him choose a healthy option. Although it is quite convenient not to pack a lunch, try a bag lunch at least two times a week. For older kids this can help your budget as kids who can go off campus can spend a lot on lunch (of questionable nutritional value).

Healthy things to pack:

  • Edamame (soybean) or sugar snap peas (good source of protein)
  • Cube cheese and offer it on a toothpick
  • Trail mix (nuts, dried cranberries stick pretzels)
  • Sliced mango, kiwi, or apples (use orange juice to help prevent browning)
  • Vanilla yogurt with raspberries and granola or nuts on top (place it in a small plastic container (use an ice pack to keep it cold)
  • Use leftover chicken from dinner last night and make a sandwich vs. processed sandwich meat which is high in sodium (salt)
  • Use a cookie cutter to shape sandwiches into hearts, flowers, etc (young kids love to eat fun-shaped sandwiches)
  • Open faced bagel with cream cheese and a face (use raisin for the eyes, a cashew for the nose etc.)
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich – apples will work too.
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese in a tortilla
  • Use a thermos in the cold months and fill it up with soup or pasta with a little bit of chicken broth for added taste
  • Cereal. Just make sure it is high in fiber (5 grams) and low in sugar (under 10 grams). Provide a container with a top and a spoon; your child can add the milk provided at school.

This family wellness article is provided by Nourish Interactive, visitwww.nourishinteractive.com for nutrition articles, family wellness tips, free children's healthy games, and tools. Available in English and Spanish.

Copyright ©2009 Nourish Interactive – All Rights Reserved.

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Lunches that kids will like

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Ever wonder what happens to that nice, balanced lunch you packed for your child to take to school? Does it get eaten or traded or even tossed in the bin? Parents want kids to eat nutritious lunches, while kids want lunches that are fun and great-tasting. Never fear— you can improve the odds that your kids will eat what you pack and like it, too! Try these lunch-packing strategies:

Think variety. Try to include something from most of the Food Pyramid food groups in every lunch. Rotate choices to promote variety and prevent boredom. This also helps to ensure that lunch will provide about one-third of a child's daily nutrient needs.

Send what kids like. Ask your child to make a list of his/her favorite lunch ingredients from each Food Pyramid food group. Then use this list to create his/her lunch menus. Better yet, get him/her involved in the shopping and packing.

Break out of the peanut butter rut. Experiment with some new fillings for sandwiches, like low-fat lunchmeats, cheeses, grilled veggies or chicken, tuna and egg salad (see “Keep lunches safe” section below). And try using different types of breads, such as bagels, rolls, pita pockets, English muffins, raisin bread or waffles (use whole-grain varieties whenever you can). If your child is devoted to peanut butter, jazz it up with sliced bananas or apples, raisins, shredded carrots or granola.

Go beyond sandwiches. The options are endless. Send pasta salad made with fun-shaped, colored pastas. Make a pizza or quesadilla on a tortilla or pita round. Or roll meat and cheese slices in a flour tortilla to make a pinwheel sandwich. Leftovers are great too—like spaghetti, a chicken leg or a hearty soup, to name a few.

Got milk? Look for individual milk boxes at the grocery store. Milk tastes best when it is ice cold, so freeze the milk the night before, and by lunchtime it will be thawed, but chilled. Mini-cheese wedges, cheese cubes and cheese sticks are kid favorites, too. Yogurt and pudding cups make a nutritious dessert.

Play up the produce. Baby carrots, celery sticks, sweet pepper slices, cherry tomatoes and other crunchy veggies are great for dipping in low-fat ranch dressing, salsa or hummus (chickpea dip). Slice apples, pears or other fruits for dipping in low-fat vanilla or lemon yogurt. Make fruit kebabs with fresh fruit chunks on straws. Or send single-serve cups of fruit, apple sauce or dried fruits.

Pack some pizzazz. Kids love fun and surprises in their lunch. Be creative with shapes, colors, and themes. For example, pack a round meal—a bagel with veggie cream cheese, an orange, carrot rounds and jelly beans. Or cut sandwiches into puzzle pieces. Have a “red lunch” day with spaghetti, red grapes, strawberry milk and red fruit leather. Make a backward lunch with a sandwich made with the meat and cheese on the outside and a note written in reverse telling the child to eat dessert first. Throw in an extra touch with a love note, joke or comic strip.

Keep lunches safe. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Use an insulated lunch box or small cooler. Include an ice pack or frozen bottle of water, juice or yogurt to help keep things cold. Use a Thermos™ to keep soups, casseroles or chili hot.

For more kid-friendly meal ideas speak to Nastaran.

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