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Making sure a brown bag lunch is nutritious and tasty enough not to end up in the school trash can is almost impossible.
But if what students learn in the classroom prepares them for the future, so does what they learn at the cafeteria lunch table, said medical journalist and author Dr. Melissa Stoppler.
“Starting your kids off right by packing school lunches with nutritious foods that taste good will help them establish healthy eating habits for life,” she said. “Instead of a sandwich on white bread, bag of chips and cookies, try healthy and more interesting items for your child’s lunch box.”
That means creatively using MyPyramid – the food guide pyramid – to plan nutritious meals. A healthy lunch is a great way for children to get the nutrients they need to power them through the school day.
Too many times, lunch boxes and bags are filled with prepackaged convenience foods (full-calorie sodas, chips and cookies), which can result in excess fats, sugars, sodium and calories that may lead to long-term health problems. These extra calories may also make kids sluggish or cranky in the afternoons.
By comparison, the five food groups in the pyramid are milk, meat and beans, fruits, vegetables and grains.
Plan lunches that include three of the five groups and supply protein, carbohydrates and fat. Lunches should also provide about one-third of a child’s daily vitamin, mineral and calorie requirements.
A peanut butter (meat and beans) and jelly sandwich (grains), an apple (fruit) and milk is a simple, balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates and fat that children commonly enjoy.
– Provide children with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Use whole wheat bread and tortillas to make sandwiches and wraps. Use real food as much as possible, avoiding processed foods and ingredients.
– Invest in an insulated food jar. The best lunch alternative could be that pot of homemade soup from last night’s supper. With an insulated food jar, you can send hot foods to school.
– Plan lunch menus ahead of time, not at the last minute. Check out the school menu to see what days your child may want to eat at school. They are published each Sunday on the education page of The Lancaster News. Monthly school lunch menus are also available online at www.lancastercsd.cam and click on “meals” in the menu bar.
– Statistics show children who help select and prepare their meals tend to eat better. Not only that, research shows they will almost always be willing to try new foods that are nutritious and healthy when they chose them.
However, it’s a good idea to first establish some ground rules for what goes into the lunch and build from there. Instead of letting the choice be a candy bar or snack cake, let them choose between a single portion of unsweetened applesauce or fresh fruit. The important part is to let them make the decision.
– Look for kid-friendly healthy recipes that appeal to their tastes. Experiment and try them at home first to see if they will work.
– Boost a plain sandwich by using whole wheat bread. You can also try multi-grain and raisin bread, pita pockets, crackers, bagels, rolls, rice cakes and English muffins. For younger schoolchildren, use cookie cutters to form sandwiches into fun shapes.
– Keep snacks simple, neat and healthy by selecting fun foods packed in portions that don’t exceed 150 calories. Avoid snacks made with trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.
Lunch will be a real treat with these PB&J Spirals. Made from refrigerated crescent roll dough, they’re a fun snack for hungry youngsters to assemble. The only time you need to help is with the baking. They’re easy to vary using different jelly flavors and nuts that suit each child’s taste.
Taco Munch is a delicious snack that could easily become a permanent addition to any school lunch.
Savory Italian Dunkers are a delightful change of taste that will grab the attention of your little pizza lover.
1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
8 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
8 teaspoons grape jelly
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
– Unroll crescent dough; separate into triangles. Spread 1 teaspoon each of peanut butter and jelly on the wide end of each triangle; sprinkle with peanuts. Roll up from the wide end and place point side down 2 inches apart on an uncreased baking sheet. Curve ends to form a crescent shape.
– Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.
– Recipe from Taste of Home
6 cups popped, unsalted popcorn
3 cups toasted corn cereal squares
1 cup mini-pretzels
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 to 3 teaspoons dry taco seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
– Combine popcorn, cereal and pretzels in a large bowl. Combine butter and taco seasoning and drizzle this over popcorn mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss to coat.
– Store in an airtight container. Add cheddar cheese just before serving.
– Recipe from Disney Family Fun
2 slices French Meadow Bakery Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
1/4 cup Italian cheese blend
Garlic powder, optional
1/4 cup jarred marinara sauce
– Turn broiler to high. Sprinkle cheese over bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder, if desired. Broil on medium shelf for about 4-5 minutes, until cheese is golden brown. Slice into strips. Serve with marinara sauce.
– Recipe from French Meadow Bakery
Greek Yogurt Veggie Dip
7 ounces Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon beau monde seasoning
– Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Serve with fresh vegetables.
– Recipe from familyfeatures.com