Are you concerned about what your kids are being served for lunch at school? You’re not alone. Grass roots organizations are springing up across the nation to address the issue of unbalanced nutrition in school cafeterias. Often times, what is best for the child is a brown bag lunch from home. That way, YOU control what they eat. But what should one pack that will be healthy, yet not end up in the trash?

Fruits and Veggies
Most Americans don’t eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables. With a little imagination, you can make these essential foods a part of your child’s diet.

  • Bag it! Slice green peppers, celery, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Top it! Add lettuce, spinach or green pepper slices to sandwiches
  • Sauce it! Include single-serving, no-sugar-added applesauce. Buy it prepackaged or make your own and freeze a few weeks worth in the small disposable plastic containers
  • Mix it! Children enjoy dried cranberries, raisins or cherries mixed with sunflower seeds, nuts or whole grain oat “O” cereals
  • Scoop it! Cut the top off a kiwi, loosen the edges and let your child eat it “French style,” scooping out the fruit with a spoon
  • Drink it! Add a fruit juice beverage—NOT A 5% juice blended with tons of SUGAR! Compare labels for sugar and juice content starting with Old Orchard Brands Healthy Balance reduced-sugar juice cocktails, or Old Orchard 100% fruit juices with no added sugars or preservatives.
  • Berry it! Small cups of strawberries, raspberries or blueberries are a great dessert. Chunks of watermelon and cantaloupe are also great options
  • Pick it! Let your kids pick out their own oranges, tangerines, pears, plums or apples at the grocery. For that matter, let them help pack their own lunch. They’ll be more likely to eat it

Whole Grains
Though the benefits of 100% whole grain breads, pastas and cereals have been touted for decades, most kids grow up eating white bread. Now is a good time to get your family on a whole grain habit.

  • Make sandwiches on 100% whole wheat bread. Read the label ingredients. Only flour listed as 100% whole wheat is truly whole wheat
  • Include a whole-wheat pasta salad with vegetables
  • Stay away from cracker, rice cake and cookie snacks that are not 100% whole grain

Healthy Proteins
If you must use lunch meats, stick to varieties that are lean and high-quality—not those packed with fats and fillers. For example, use roasted turkey rather than bologna.

Lunch meats contain a lot of preservatives and chemicals that are not healthy for growing children. Alternatives include home made egg salad, sliced, grilled chicken or chicken salad, peanut butter and cheese. Boiled eggs, nuts, yogurt and string cheese are good sources of protein as well.

Say “No” to Junk Food
Many parents pack their child a healthy lunch and add some junk food treats: chips, sweets, sugar-packed granola bars and other prepackaged sweets. When kids have that choice, and are eating in a hurry to get out to the playground, many eat the junk and throw the healthy food away.

Talk with your Children
Help them understand how important it is to eat well. Make them aware of the dangers of obesity, both physically and mentally. Let them know that while they have the power to trade their healthy food for a friend’s junk food snack, they also have the power to make healthy choices for themselves.

When your children watch TV, point out how some commercials are trying to persuade them to eat unhealthy food products. Teach them to be smart consumers from a young age.

And most importantly, set a good example at home. If your kids understand the facts they might choose to eat healthy!

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