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Pack Your Kids a Healthy School Lunch

September 2004
Pack Your Kids a Healthy School Lunch

Now that school is back in session, parents around the country are facing the same dilemma: what to pack in their kids' lunchboxes. The main course is usually easy -- a sandwich or leftovers from dinner the night before; but what should you pack for their snacks?

"There are a lot of good options out there that make nutritional contributions to a child's daily intake," says Lisa Katic, a registered dietician in private practice in Virginia. For the sake of convenience, a lot of parents buy prepackaged snack foods at the grocery store. Katic says good, nutritious options include string cheese, apple sauce, pretzels and fruit.

Federal surveys show kids get about one third of their daily calories at lunch, so what they eat during this meal matters to their health. An example of a well-rounded school lunch includes a pint of milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and for snacks, grapes, carrot sticks, and pretzels. Each slice of bread counts as a serving from the grains group; pretzels are another grain serving; the grapes count as one serving of fruits; the carrots would count as one serving of vegetables; the peanut butter counts as a serving of meat.

"If your child were to eat everything you packed, they'd be well on their way to meeting their daily needs of foods from all the different groups," says Katic. According to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, young children should be getting 2 servings each day from the meat, milk and fruit groups, 3 from the vegetable group, and 6 grains.

Grains are important because they are high in carbohydrates and a rich source of energy, B-group vitamins and minerals; fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals; meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are sources of protein, which is essential for growth and development. Milk and other dairy products are the best source of calcium, which is essential for the proper development of bones.

"Since kids tend to be picky eaters, a good way to make sure they get all the nutrition they need each day is to sneak it in during snack time," says Katic. Snacks help kids who are always on the go meet their energy needs between meals.

But with today's active on-the-go lifestyles, parents don't always have the time to stop what they're doing to prepare healthy snacks for their kids. "A good option is for them to give their kids prepackaged snacks like pretzels," says Claude O'Connor of Snyders of Hanover. "We have single serve bags of pretzel sticks and snaps available in eight-pack trays that make it convenient for people to snack healthier when away from home." To make the snack even more nutritious, you can serve the pretzels with cheese, peanut butter or fresh fruit -- all snacks that are easy to eat on the go.

You can find Snyder's of Hanover snack food packs in grocery stores nationwide. For more information log on to www.snydersofhanover.com.

-Courtesy of ARA Content

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