Ten Tips For A Healthier Lunch Box

Posted: 09/10/2008 10:40 AM EDT

Posted Aug. 27, 2008 – With many of the young ones back in school you’re probably wondering: “What on earth am I going to fix for lunch? Lunch packing duty, for those who have done it for years, can be one of the most challenging but important things you do for your child each day.

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If you’re looking for healthy alternatives that your children will actually eat, experts say, it’s worth the effort. The percentage of overweight children has tripled since the mid-1970s, according to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among high school students in 2007, the CDC's national Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that nearly 80 percent  were not meeting minimum daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake, and 34 percent drank at least one can, bottle or glass of soda – not including diet – per day.

So, here are some ideas to make your school box lunches a little healthier and edible:

  1.  Pack a fruit instead of chips. A banana, apple or in-season fruit is more likely to be eaten if you picked a fruit that your child likes. Or, using fruit for dissert, sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on some strawberries and put them in a baggie for a special treat.
  2. Get your child’s input. Invite him or her into the kitchen to help prepare the lunch for the day or week. Get their input when you’re grocery shopping, giving him or her a choice between two or three healthy items. Experts say if the child participates in the preparation, he or she is more likely to eat what’s fixed.
  3. Find creative ways to fit in healthy foods: Wellspring New York, an Adirondacks-based weight-loss camp for young women suggested to Forbes that instead of packing a day-old slice of takeout pepperoni pizza, try spreading some vegetable-filled marinara sauce and low-fat cheese on a bagel. You'll save your child fat and calories without making him or her feel too deprived. Another option is the yogurt parfait.
  4. Dress up the veggies with a dip. Again, let your child choose what veggies she or he would like, then provide a low cal dip or light cream cheese to go with them. Sprinkle a little preprika on the cream cheese to give it a little color.
  5. Freshen up those leftovers: Made a dish your child likes? Dress it up with a special sauce or fresh veggies and then pack the meal up for lunch.
  6. Put a new twist on the old standards.  If your child is stuck on PBJ or chicken? Stick a banana or some raisins in with the peanut butter and jam, and use whole-wheat bread.
  7. With the chicken, toss in a few cranberries to give it chicken salad some texture and more vitamins, or use a tortilla instead of bread for your chicken and prepare a roll-up.
  8. Shack it up. Pack some fun foods that give texture and flavor like spicy corn nuts, dried fruits, raisins, cherries and cranberries to satisfy a sweet tooth. Also, let your child prepare his own concoction of trail mix with healthy grains, fruits and nuts.
  9. Flavor some sparkling water with some orange, lime or lemon zest to cut down on soda intake.
  10. Breakfast for lunch: Depending on when your child has lunch, breakfast favorites might be a better option than a sandwich. Dietitians advising USA Today suggest this scrambled egg pocket: Scramble one or two eggs; place in half a whole-wheat pita pocket; add salsa, black beans and grated cheese. Serve with fruit or 8 ounces of 100  fruit juice.

You can find other ideas at Forbes.com “Seven Healthy School Lunch Secrets” "Seven Healthy School Lunch Secrets" or USA Today’s Easy & Healthy School Lunches.

 

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