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Get your kid to eat a school lunch – that's healthy

Posted August 28, 2008

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— Packing a lunch your child will actually eat is one of the big stresses of the school year. A dietitian helped a local mother find nutritious food that her daughter won't trade at lunch time.

Jill Simpson won't call her 7-year-old daughter Lande a picky eater – just a very finicky one.

"There are some days when carrots are her favorite food, and the next day she can't stand them," Simpson.

Lande will also refuse a sandwich, so packing a school lunch for her daughter becomes a challenge for Simpson.

WRAL News brought in registered dietitian Marcia Mills to help ease this mom's back-to-school stress.

Mills started in the grocery store and let Lande help pick out her lunch food, even choosing between red, orange and green peppers.

As for the sandwich situation, Mills said parents can find alternatives to that seeming school-lunch staple.

"I like the hummus, because it's a bean or a pea," Mills said. Crackers with a few ounces of cheese for protein can be another sandwich replacement.

Mills took a good look at food labels, keeping an eye out in particular for high sugar levels. Diet peanut butter, for example, wasn't worth it, because it has more sugar than regular peanut butter, she said.

The dietitian recommended filling lunch boxes with applesauce with no sugar added, cereal bars with fewer than 100 calories and goldfish only of the whole-grain variety.

Simpson took those new lunch ideas home and put them to practice. Lande helped pack the lunch, picking out her fruit and carrots – for the ranch dressing, of course. With the encouragement of ranch, Lande even tried red pepper slices for the first time.

A couple tablespoons of hummus with baked pita chips replaced the sandwich, and Lande chose a chocolate cookie for a treat. With those starchy items, Simpson put water, instead of juice, into Lande's thermos.

The result? Lande ate the lunch without prompting.

"This is great, really. Cool!" her mother exclaimed.


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  • ShareTheRoad Aug 28, 2008

    i love preparing school lunches, and take pride knowing that what i have packed for my kid is most likely going to be more healthy than the fried chicken pattie and french fries they will offer him at school, along with the mushy green beans he wouldnt eat.

    Bento-style lunches are a LOT of fun and no kid on the face of this earth would trade a beautiful, artistic, funky, creative, home-made piece of yummy art for a pre-packaged piece of junkfood.

    Do a google image search for Bento and see what I'm talking about. They are super fun and a great way to be creative for your kids. I can't wait til my two are older so they can help make them. Its fun!

  • alx Aug 28, 2008

    here's how the school lunches work around here. My daughter brings it part of the time & eats at school the rest of the time. we put money on her account to eat. if she ever runs out... they give her a roll & a milk. if there is any balance at the end of the year, they keep the money. those who get free lunch are never embarrassed like that. its a really classy way to treat a 3rd grader.

  • Tax Man Aug 28, 2008

    Phrostbite - hey, I did not propose a bad meal, but a good meal. My main comment is that if the F&R kids refuse these meals then take them off the program. If they are not utilizing it then we should not have to provide it. I agree a healthy meal is needed for all kids - get the junk out - and the parents MUST cooperate. But if the meals are being tossed or refused then remove those kids from the program as pure waste. It needs to be the parents responsibility to provide the meals, and the education about healthy diets - I agree with you about CrackDonalds and other fast foods - should not be permitted in schools.

  • TheAdmiral Aug 28, 2008

    Pack a lunch - it is healthier and commonly a lot better balanced than what the dietitians plan in the schools.

  • Phrostbite Aug 28, 2008

    Tax Man...why not have bread & water for the free & reduced lunchers?, geesh...get a grip.

    The school lunches need to follow Mill's lead in this story...that is, plan healthy meals that allow all gets eating at school a tasty, yet healthy lunch. Parents need to do their part by wheening kids off of 'crack'donald's

  • Reader Aug 28, 2008

    My four kids have always made their own school lunches - that way I know they will eat them. BUT I set the guidelines (one serving each of grain, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetable), and buy the foods that they can choose from. I don't care if one likes yogurt and another prefers cheese or milk. Of if it's peanut butter intsead of ham, or apples instead of peaches. Mom's need to teach good habits; you can't control them forver, becasue eventually they grow up.

  • san4short Aug 28, 2008

    I agree with Room, I'm a young 40 and I remember when I went to school, I walked to and from school, I ate a good lunch, I played outside after school, at 6:00 sharp was dinner with your family, homework, an hour of TV if you were lucky and then off to bed! Weekends were spent cleaning the house, racking leaves, shoveling snow, laundry, etc. Kids today spend way too much time in front of the TV, computer or playing hand held games and eating too much fast food because mom's too tired to cook. I'm slightly guilty that my 5 year old was falling into that trap when we lived in an apartment. But now we've moved into a house and I want him to play out in the yard more than sitting in front of the tv or when his friends come over and they run around the house, I let them, better than sitting still in front of the computer or tv.

  • rrnjmm1999 Aug 28, 2008


  • room Aug 28, 2008

    Lets see. Growing up my lunches were packed normally with one large country ham sandwich and one tenderloin sandwich with chips, some type of fruit (normally an apple), and a slice (huge) of cake or some cookies. I normally ate it all. I got home and for supper there was plenty of meat and potatoes and breads.
    I never had a weight problem.
    Why did I not have a weight problems and why did I eat everything?
    I worked hard after school. I also played hard. I got more exercise in one afternoon than most kids get in a month now.
    Put up the silly hummus and get the kids off the computers, let them do some chores, and get some exercise EVERY DAY.
    You parents are killing your kids with this lifestyle you (parents) are promoting. Kids need exercise and some cutting grass or housework wont hurt them either.

  • duvler Aug 28, 2008

    Make your kids lunch with the items you think they should eat. If they don't eat them they will be hungry enough when they get home to eat what you put in front of them. This stuff starts when they are very young, if you cater to them then, you'll do it forever.