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Tips for packing fun, healthy lunches for kids

September 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A sandwich and some milk don't cut it anymore when it comes to brown bagging it. For school lunches, variety is the key to keeping your kids healthy and interested.

"We've got to make it fast. The kids just want to get out on the playground and play, so if you give them an orange, peel the orange," said Albertson's dietitian Heidi Diller.

Back to school means back to the kitchen for parents to learn lessons about smart choices for their children's lunch. Diller said to keep portions petite.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes parents make is packing too much food, forgetting that the kids are at their desks all day. They just want to get on the playground and play," said Diller.

Of course make it fun with lean proteins, and even plant proteins, such as nut butters and colorful and fresh items.

Asian influence has hit the market: crunchy seaweed, fun-to-pop edamame, and plum sauce, which is a sweet and salty dipper for produce.

Diller said the seaweed is like chips, but it only has 10 calories.

Two very important things you want to put in your child's tote are quality protein and complex carbohydrates that have fiber, because you want them stoked after lunch, not nodding off to sleep.

Processed, refined carbs will make kids ready to nap. Instead, look for whole grains, which prolong digestion.

Some smart ideas? Try single-serving nut butters, such as Justin's. You can also create a bento box idea with yogurt, produce, whole grain crackers and nut butter and jam together.

Lettuce wraps with tuna or chicken salad is sassy, or there's easy grab-and-go deli meat and cheese rollup with popcorn and fruit.

The last rule on school lunch is to get your children in on the planning. Send them to the produce aisle to pick what they want.

"Ask them what other kids are having at lunch and what are some fun new ideas, and they're less likely to trade," said Diller.

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