How to Pack a Healthier Lunchbox

Tasty, easy, surprising suggestions for kid lunches that steer clear of fat traps.
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Your Child Needs to Eat Healthy

I confess, I'm a pushover when it comes to forking over money for Friday pizza lunches at my children's school -- packing brown bags can be a huge time drain. But even as the National School Lunch Program, a federally assisted meal program, strives to improve the nutrition of school menus, the average elementary-school lunch contains roughly 33 percent calories from fat.

This high-fat fare can increase a child's risk for becoming overweight, a problem three times as many children ages 6 to 11 face than 30 years ago. "Packing a healthy lunch for your child is a definite start toward combating obesity," says Pat Vasconcellos, a Boston-area spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Where to start? Every child needs 16 grams of protein (two slices deli meat with one serving string cheese or half a can of tuna); two servings of a fruit or vegetable (one small piece of fruit and a palm-size serving of carrots or celery); two grain servings (two slices of grainy bread, or one whole-wheat pita), and a small amount of fat from meat, nuts, or dairy. "This mix keeps kids well fueled until they get home," says Marilyn Tanner, pediatric study coordinator at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. "Starch gives them quick energy, protein keeps their blood sugar sustained so they don't get an afternoon lull, and the fat will keep them feeling satiated."

Follow this game plan for healthy lunches your kids will love.

Continued on page 2:  Healthy Lunches Game Plan


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