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Wondering What to Pack for School Lunches?

Here are 15 healthier brown-bag lunch options now available in your supermarket.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Can you hear it? It's the sound of lunch bags and lunchboxes being snapped open. It's the sound of peanut butter lids being screwed off and pantry doors being opened as lunches are packed every morning in homes across America. It's back to the lunch-packing grind for parents, and many may be wondering what's new in healthy supermarket options.

It's an important question, as each lunch offers an opportunity to improve your child's diet.  Lunchtime choices can make a big difference toward the daily and weekly totals for calories, fat, saturated fat, fiber, sugar, and sodium.

For example:

  • Using higher-fiber, 100% whole-wheat breads to make sandwiches instead of white bread adds about 20 grams of fiber in a week's time, not to mention all the nutrients whole grains provide. 
  • If you pack sliced apples in your child's lunch each day instead of a fruit roll, you'll cut the refined sugar in your child's diet by 50 grams a week, while adding some 20 grams of fiber to the weekly total. You'll also be giving your child 27% of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin C, and 15% of the Daily Value for vitamin E and potassium each day. 
  • Pack 3 ounces of carrot chips (from Grimmway Farms) in the lunchbox instead of 2 ounces of potato chips, and your child gets 1,325 fewer snack calories each week, 95 fewer grams of fat, 30 fewer grams of saturated fat, and 10 more grams of fiber. The carrot chips will also add 270% of the Daily Value for antioxidant vitamin A each day.

Apples and carrot chips aside, parents must find a balance between packing healthy lunches and packing lunches that their kids will actually eat. To assist them in this quest, food companies introduce new lunchbox products each year.

Have you looked in the dried fruit section lately? In resealable bags, you'll find plenty of unsweetened and lightly sweetened choices, from tropical pineapple and mango to the "berry-licious" flavors of blueberries, cherries and "berry blend."

And food companies like Chiquita and Ready Pack are working to make fruits and vegetables more convenient and fun. Chiquita has come out with Apple Bites (presliced apples in both individual and big bags), Grape Bites (individual bags), and Carrot Bites and Sugar Snap Peas (both packed with small containers of ranch dip). Ready Pac sells individual packages of baby carrots and ranch dip and celery stick with peanut butter. If you want to lose the dip, Grimmway Farms sells snack packs of just baby carrots and 16-ounce bags of fun-to-eat Carrot Chips. (These products do tend to be pricey, so try and get them when they are on sale.)

Here's a roundup of some of the healthy lunch offerings you'll find in the supermarket.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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