Spice Up Those School Lunch Bags

Tips on giving your children interesting yet nutritional meals

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FRIDAY, Aug. 29, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If your children start to experience lunch bag letdown soon after school starts, here are some ideas on how to provide them with healthy lunches that won't bore them.

The first step is to involve children in the process, Marjorie Sawicki, a registered dietitian at Saint Louis University, says in a news release.

"One trick that works is to have your child take part in the decision-making process. Allow him to select from many healthy options and let him prepare lunch. Being involved gives him a sense of ownership of the meal, which means he'll be less likely to trade it away," Sawicki says.

She suggests you use the food pyramid to guide you on what to offer your children for their school lunches. Ideally, lunch should include a fruit, a vegetable, a meat serving, a dairy serving and one or two grain servings. She offers an example.

"Start with a low-fat turkey sandwich with a slice of lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bread. Add an apple and some low-fat chocolate milk, and you've created a nutritious lunch that would pass muster with many children and their nutrition-conscious parents," Sawicki says.

Here are some more ideas on how to create healthy lunches for your children:

  • Substitute dried fruit chips, pretzels and popcorn for potato chips.
  • Thread broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini and cauliflower on a straw to make veggie kabobs. Include ranch dressing to be used as a dip.
  • Cube fruits, which can be dipped in fruit-flavored yogurt. Pack bananas, pears, pineapple chunks, frozen grapes and single-serve containers of apple sauce.
  • Pack a pita pocket with peanut butter or another favorite filling.
  • Make a tortilla pizza by rolling spaghetti sauce, cheese and low-fat pepperoni inside a shell.
  • Read nutrition labels so that you can choose healthier foods that are lower in fat, sodium and sugar. Select chicken, turkey, lean ham, low-fat lunchmeat and tuna packed in water.
  • Use an ice pack to keep cold foods cold or pack perishable foods next to a frozen juice box that will thaw in time for lunch. Get an insulated lunch bag to keep everything at the proper temperature.
  • Select a beverage that is 100 percent fruit juice. Juice drinks are mainly sugar and water and don't contain many nutrients. Another drink option is 1 per cent or fat-free milk.
  • Keep portions small. Children's bellies fill quickly, so limit portions to a half cup or less.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the food pyramid for young children.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, news release, August 2003

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