Health Team

Make Your Child's Lunch Something to Anticipate

Posted August 13, 2007

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— Is your child more likely to eat the lunch you pack for them or trade it for something they like? There are clever and healthy ways to make your child's lunch something to anticipate.

According to Natalie Newell, a registered dietician at Rex Healthcare, if you have got a stash of old brown lunch bags for your kids, keep them stashed. Instead, she suggests using the insulated kind and include a frozen water bottle.

"(It's) something to keep that meat safe, because a lot of times kids now are taking yogurt, taking a sandwich that has meat on it. It's appropriate that it stay cool because it is so hot," she said.

By lunchtime, the thawed bottle of water will be a healthier option than juice.

"You do want to be mindful of that because they are high in calorie, even if they are 100 percent juice," Newell said.

Newell's advice on lunch meats is go to the deli and ask for low-fat, low-sodium slices or possibly use sliced meat from the previous night's dinner.

Instead of the traditional white bread most kids prefer, Newell said whole wheat is better or choose white wheat bread that looks white, but can be rich in fiber. She said to look on the label and not settle for anything less than three grams of fiber.

To kick it up a notch, Newell said to cut the sandwich with cookie cutter shapes, like some of the products kids like on store shelves.

"That's why a lot of these products that are geared toward kids sell," she said.

Another example of clever food marketing for kids is with "dipping sauces." Newell said that should be a clue for parents to include low-fat dressing or other mixtures with raw veggies.

"It's also great with fruit. Kids like dipping sauce. They like to dip things. It's fun," said Newell.

You can dip fruit in low-fat yogurt or mix fruit in the yogurt. She said to make sure your child gets some source of calcium in their meals whether in yogurt or a carton of low-fat milk.

Chips are a staple of most kids' lunches, so Newell said choose chips without trans fat. Baked chips or whole wheat crackers are the way to go.

Finally, make packing the lunch a fun time with your child.

"If you get them involved, they're more likely to eat what you pack them," Newell said.


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  • parr4246 Aug 15, 2007

    heelygirl...."Growing up we had enough money for food only half of the time. School lunch for me and my sister was a brown paper bag. Very rarely was there ever anything in it." ........ So you took empty brown bags to school??????? Didn't schools have "free" lunch when you went to school.....???

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Aug 15, 2007

    mmmm, making me hungry...

  • raleighner Aug 15, 2007

    The elementary school I attened had delicious food. It was not always healthy, but it was yummy. The ladies would make cinnamon buns, yeast rolls, and the most fantastic baked mac and cheese. The school had lots of fresh fruit and veggies as sides. Once I got in middle school, the cafeteria was REALLY bad, it was not cool to take your lunch if you did not like what was offered for the day...we all opted for the pizza, fries, and chicken sandwiches which were offered everyday. My mom taught at that school and would not eat food from there! I don't think it is a coincidence that most of us put on a few extra pounds during middle school. By the time we got in high school, we could either leave for lunch or knew someone who could leave for lunch and we ate elsewhere!

  • North Carolina Native Aug 15, 2007

    I think it's a neat idea for a kindergartner as a special treat... but it seems kind of wasteful....

  • shine Aug 15, 2007

    Don't forget the Grey Poupon !

  • NCTeacher Aug 15, 2007

    Huckleberry- the school lunch really isn't all that healthy. They have pizza 1-2 days a week, corndogs, chicken nuggets, fried chicken sandwiches, mashed potatoes, fries, loads of starches and almost no vegetables. Lots of fried everything. It doesn't hurt kids to eat that stuff once in a while- but day after day it really isn't good for you. The cafeteria really should offer more healthy alternatives but everyone complains about how it would be too expensive.

  • imyourhuckleberry Aug 14, 2007

    What's wrong with a buck fifty for lunch and eat what the school system has put on their nutrious menu? Are they saying that our school systems need to have cutsie shapes for lunch and offer yogurt? Why not make the system change. Sounds like too much work at home when we could just petition the schools for cookie cutter sandwiches!

  • NCTeacher Aug 14, 2007

    Why do kids have to be persuaded to eat? What is wrong with telling them that they will eat the healthy food you provide for them and when they grow up they can buy their won groceries and eat all the cute shaped sandwiches they want? When I was young- you ate what was provided or you didn't eat until the next meal. You learned real quick that that sandwich tasted the same whether it was cut in a cute little star shape or not. And you didn't have loads of kids running around with obesity problems.

  • thewayitis Aug 14, 2007

    I just wish all of these nutritionists would stop ragging on juice. There is nothing wrong with kids drinking 100% juice, if they only drink one serving a day. It is not unhealthy, it is not bad for them, and it is not a bad choice if the quantity is limited to one serving. What I think is really bad for kids are all of these drinks with artificial sweeteners, that many kids drink without limit. I'm afraid to put that junk in my kids' bodies. I'd rather give them a single serving of juice, that people have been drinking for 100s of years, than a drink with artificial sweeteners and a short history.

  • Yelena Aug 14, 2007

    Cutting food into cutsie little shapes is silly, and encourages kids to be picky. Give them a reasonable amount of healthy, properly prepared food, and leave it at that.

    Speaking as a parent of a child with a gluten intolerance, I don't think sharing food is appropriate. I'm sure parents of children with allergies feel the same way. It is discouraged within the school system.

    Nobody will be going without food at school because of the free lunch program that is open to all families who can not afford to provide for thier children.