This year, start a new tradition pack a healthy school lunch for your
A nutritious lunch from home helps kids stay away from the high-fat,
high-sugar, and high-sodium stuff in school cafeterias and vending machines.
Research shows that America's children are missing out on five essential
nutrients to their growth and good health: calcium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, and potassium.
Mom has plenty on her plate these days, including the high-ranking job as
senior manager of her children's nutrition.
In most families, "mom buys the food that's in the house. Mom puts food
on the table. Mom has the pivotal role in what the kids eat," says Marilyn
Tanner-Blasier, RD, LD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic
Dads influence their child's nutrition, too, and it's not just what's
cooking in the kitchen. Both parents set the pattern for the family's
An ideal lunch provides good nutrition plus just enough calories to fuel body and
brain throughout the day. Sandwiches are fine for the first few weeks, but
after that, kids get bored, says Elizabeth Ward, author of Healthy Foods,
You can't be too hard-nosed about it, Ward adds. Ask kids what they want
favorite fruits, vegetables, dips (kids love dips). Let them have choices, but
make the choices healthy ones. Let them choose a trendy lunch box or attractive
insulated bag that looks like a fashion accessory. And don't worry, slipping an
occasional soda, bag of chips, or candy bar into that new accessory is not a
Basics for a Five-Star Healthy School Lunch
Kids need lots of variety to keep them interested. For balanced nutrition,
make meals with adequate servings of at least three of these five food
Dairy: string cheese, cheese cubes, low-fat cottage
cheese, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, pudding made with low-fat milk, calcium-
and vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
Fruit: fresh fruit such as orange segments, grapes,
strawberries, blueberries, pears, apples, dried fruit, 100% juice boxes, canned
fruit cups in juice.
Vegetables: baby carrots, grape tomatoes, celery sticks,
salsa, tomato juice, red bell peppers, broccoli.