Local News

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

Posted August 28, 2008 8:09 a.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2008 2:03 p.m. EDT

— 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.