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Healthy Lunchbox Tips

Try these easy ideas for quick brown bag nutrition.

Make It a Snap

"Children may have as little as 20 minutes to make it to the cafeteria, find their seats, eat, and clean up after themselves, so ease is the name of the game," Wright says. At some schools, kids eat on the playground, distracted by playing games.

So user-friendly foods are a must for lunch, especially for younger children who easily dismiss hard-to-eat foods that take time to get ready to eat. For example, older kids may be capable of peeling oranges and eggs in a flash, but younger ones are not. Sending a thermos? Make sure your child knows how to use it. Children with braces or other orthodontic devices often do better with foods like applesauce rather than whole apples, and prefer crackers or bread to bagels and bulky rolls, which are difficult to bite.

What's to Drink?

Milk and fortified 100% fruit juice are the best drinks for children at lunch, in that order. Up until age 9, kids need three 8-ounce glasses of milk every day, or an equivalent such as three cuts of yogurt. By their 9th birthday, they require four servings a day. Milk is one of the easiest ways for kids to meet their need for dairy foods. Encourage milk at school by providing milk money or packing containers of milk in the lunchbox. To make it a treat, offer low-fat chocolate milk. If you child refuses to drink milk at school, opt for 100% fruit juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Don't Forget Fun

Every kid clamors for junk food, and an outright ban rarely works. So offer healthier alternatives. Pack these fun foods for a healthy treat:

  • Baked potato chips
  • Homemade toasted pita bread chips
  • Pretzels
  • Trail mix or raisins
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Nuts or soy nuts
  • A smattering of chocolate chips
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Graham crackers
  • Fig bars

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Reviewed on July 31, 2006

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