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The Secret to Better School Lunches

Nutritious and delicious school lunches kids will eat.
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Salad Days
Toss in a single-serve bag of ready-to-eat salad with low-fat dressing, cubes of lean meat, cheese, and assorted veggies. Team with whole-grain bread sticks and a carton of low-fat milk.

Pack a Five-Star Lunch
Balance and variety are the keys to packing a lunch kids will love. A healthy meal consists of an adequate serving of at least three of the following five food groups for balanced nutrition:

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.

Whole grains -- whole-grain breads, tortillas, wraps, cereals, crackers.

Lean protein -- beans, nuts, seeds, turkey, chicken, tuna, lean lunch meat, peanut butter, veggie burgers, bean salad, hummus.

Banish Boredom
Think variety when packing school lunches. Children will delight to find a variety of their favorite foods in their lunch boxes. Kids love foods that are a surprise and stimulate the appetite. Make things interesting by packing a theme-based lunch based on a subject your child is studying in school. Shape sandwiches with cookie cutters to add interest. Anything they can dip makes eating more fun for kids, including fruit and veggies into yogurt, low-fat dressing, or salsa. Remember that we eat with our eyes. Food has to look as good as it tastes to get past your child's mouth. Prepackaged deli meals and snacks are convenient but are often loaded with sodium, fat, and sugar. Reserve these for occasional treats. Small portions of "extras" such as plain cookies, graham crackers, baked chips, or bite-size candy bars are perfectly fine additions that kids love. Low-fat chocolate milk has extra sugar but contains other valuable nutrients that can contribute to a nutritious meal.

Take a Food Field Trip
One way to increase the odds that kids will actually eat and enjoy a nutritious noon meal is to take Junior to the grocery store with you and together decide what should go into the lunchbox. Keep in mind that "F" is for both food and fun when it comes to school lunches to help make sure your kid gets an A in nutrition.

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Reviewed on July 20, 2007

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