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Easy Steps to Your Child's Nutrition

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School Lunches, Healthy Choices

Packing up a healthy school lunch is easy with these tasty tips.

Healthy School Lunches: Make Other Meals Do Double Duty

You can get a healthy midday meal together fast when you've cooked it up that morning -- or the night before.

Leftovers for Lunch. When dinner is a hit, dish it up again the next day for lunch. These leftovers work well in a thermos or insulated bag:

  • Sloppy Joes: Serve with bread sticks, crackers, or a roll, baby carrots or celery sticks, and 1% low-fat milk 
  • Pizza, fruit, and 100% fruit juice 
  • Shepherd's pie, stew, macaroni and cheese, Chinese food, or pasta and meatballs; fruit, and 1% low-fat milk

Lunch on Breakfast. Kids love to mix up meal times. They'll look forward to lunch with these midday meals in the bag.

  • Dry whole-grain cereal, slivered almonds for mixing with cereal; thermos of 1% low-fat milk (or purchase a carton at school); fruit 
  • French toast cut into strips, single-serve container of applesauce for dipping, carton or thermos of 1% low-fat milk 
  • Whole-grain bagel or mini bagels spread with low-fat cream cheese, carton of low-fat yogurt, banana 
  • Waffle sandwich: two whole-grain waffles, spread with any nut butter or sunflower seed butter, carton of low-fat yogurt, fruit

Deal With Dessert.When other kids are eating cookies, candy or other treats at lunchtime, it may be difficult for your child to go without. So pack these treats:

  • A mini candy bar or a mini muffin works well to satisfy a sweet tooth; 100-calorie packs of lower-fat cookies, such as animal crackers, are a happy compromise, too. 
  • Dessert doesn't have to be sweet. Pack a single-serve bag of low-fat popcorn (it's a whole grain!); sliced hard cheese and dried fruit; or a small amount of snack chips.

Healthy School Lunches: Getting the Kids Involved

A great way to be sure kids want to eat right is to make them part of the process. Some good ways to do that include:

  • Have Everyone Jump In. Muster enthusiasm for the midday meal by having kids participate in planning and assembling their own lunches. When children help, making healthy school lunches becomes second nature, and they'll soon be doing it on their own. 
  • Get Kids Excited. Let kids choose a lunch box or insulated bag; a thermos; and small reusable hard plastic containers for taking lunch to school. A small freezer pack keeps food cold. Have them decorate them with stickers, markers, or paint. Children who brown-bag it can decorate a different bag every day. 
  • Shop Together for Healthy Choices. Take your child to the grocery store to pick out healthy ingredients. "At the very least, lunch should include a source of protein, such as turkey, chicken, beans, eggs, nut butters, or sunflower seed butter; grains; fruits or vegetables; and a nutritious beverage, such as low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice," Nissenberg says. 
  • Make Compromising Cool. When kids clamor for fatty luncheon meats, chips, sugary drinks, and desserts -- compromise. Have them concoct their own healthier versions. Purchase reduced-sodium deli meat; reduced-fat cheese; whole-grain bread or crackers; small fruit, such as clementines and tangerines; cartons of 1% low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice; and mini candy bars. 
  • Check Up on Lunch.If you're curious what your child is actually eating what he packs for lunch, ask him to bring home any uneaten food.
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