Local News

Think Outside The Bread Box When Packing A Nutritious Lunch

Posted November 29, 2001

— Hot lunches served at school have improved over the years, but sometimes kids still want to bring their lunch.

For parents, it is not always easy to pack the perfect lunch. It can be a challenge to balance good nutrition with what kids want to eat.

Tracey Bates, a nutritionist with the Durham County Health Department, has tips to make the lunch box battle easier on both parents and kids.

A typical lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, snack cake and soda gets a failing grade from Bates.

She offered the following substitutions:

  • Replace the snack cake with an apple or carrot sticks.
  • Replace the soda with 100 percent juice or low-fat milk.
  • Replace potato chips with pretzels, a snack mix, or colorful, baked corn chips.
  • The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is fine, but to add variety, Bates suggested using different types of breads or adding banana slices instead of jelly.

    Bates said that choosing foods in a variety of colors is also important and appealing.

    Another alternative lunch is soup with carrot sticks, ranch dressing, an apple and string cheese.

    When shopping, Bates said that parents should think outside of the bread box.

    "You've got a variety of breads. You don't always have to use bread or think of a sandwich. You can use English muffins, you can use tortillas, you can use graham crackers -- even pasta," she said.

    Bates also suggested having plenty of lunch meats handy, as well as fresh or dried fruit or fruit cups.

    Since kids do not have a lot of time to eat, Bates said that it is important to have nutritious food choices.

    "If you've got items like Moon Pies and chips, they're going to choose that first and whatever else you've got in the lunch box may just get left behind or thrown out," she said.

  • It important to pack lunch the night before, plan the menu ahead of time and get kids involved in the process.
  • Use the

    USDA food pyramid

    as a guide, trying to hit three or four food groups.

  • Be creative with colors and textures.
  • A good lunch box is also important. Bates suggests including an ice pack to keep food fresh.
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