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The Secret to Better School Lunches

Nutritious and delicious school lunches kids will eat.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Back to school means scrubbed kids carrying shiny new lunch boxes. It also means stumped moms staring into the fridge, desperately seeking ways to sneak even a little bit of nutrition into their child's midday meal. "One of the biggest mistakes parents make is sending too much and the wrong kinds of food in their child's lunch box," says Elizabeth Ward, author of Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids. Use your child's fist as a guideline to perfect portion sizes.

An ideal lunch is nutritious and has enough calories to fuel brain and motor activity but not too many calories, which can cause hyperactive or sluggish post-lunch behavior. It's time to think beyond two slices of bread. "Sandwiches are fine for the first few weeks, then the monotony sets in and you need to get out of the sandwich rut," says Ward. Here are some kid-approved nutritious favorites.

Don't forget to include a frozen 100% fruit-juice box to keep foods cool until lunchtime.

Hole Foods
Top a cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter and banana. Add a carton of yogurt and a few celery sticks.

Kool Kabobs
Throw in kabobs of any type. Thread low-fat meat, low-fat cheese, pineapple and cherry tomatoes onto a stick. Include whole-grain crackers and a carton of milk.

Try a Tortilla
Spread a low-fat tortilla with egg salad, shredded carrots and cucumber slices. Toss in a yogurt smoothie made with fruit.

Pocket Change
Stuff a pita pocket with fat-free refried beans, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, or salsa. Add a carton of milk and fruit.

Layers of Fun
Make your own parfait. In a tall, clear plastic glass. Include low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and a high-fiber, crunchy cereal and trail mix of craisins, nuts and seeds for a lunchtime treat.

On a Roll
Scoop out a whole-grain roll and fill it with tuna salad made with chopped apples and celery. Add cheese cubes, baby carrots, and 100% fruit juice.

It's a Wrap
Place a slice of turkey, Swiss cheese, a few leaves of fresh spinach, and cranberry relish on a colorful wrap -- and then wrap it up! Add a can of tomato juice and a piece of fresh fruit.

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