Simple steps for packing the perfect school lunch

Children's lunches should include a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, protein and fat

For some kids, the best part of the school day is lunchtime. Almost half of all students bring their own food from home, but a new study shows those lunches are often lacking the essentials. 

According to Miami Children's Hospital pediatric nutritionist Erin Corrigan, only 1/3 of children get a fruit in their lunch and only 11 percent get a vegetable. 

The perfect children's lunch should include:

  • 1 fruit
  • 1 vegetable
  • whole grain
  • protein
  • fat 

"You want to get the good, healthy fats," said Corrigan, since fat is fuel for the brain. "From oils, nuts and seeds, and in some of the fat in dairy products. You can get low-fat dairy products. A little bit of fat is OK, they need those fat calories. 

Corrigan suggests adding fresh veggies as a side dish to dip in hummus. "Kids love sugar snap peas, they're crunchy and sweet, same with baby carrots. And you can dip them in hummus, it's made of beans so it's a complex carb."

Need ideas to add some variety to the typical sandwich? Try using a thinly sliced whole wheat bagel instead of bread or putting leftover chicken inside a whole wheat tortilla. You can also try a cold whole wheat noodle salad or a garbanzo bean salad, which will be full of protein and good fat that keeps children active and awake for the rest of the day. 

"Otherwise, they will get a sugar rush from the baked goods and crackers, cookies and juices and tire out by the middle of the afternoon." 

Some other healthy changes are coming to your child's school this year. Snacks in the vending machine can't be more than 200 calories. Bake sales are limited and candy can no longer be sold to fundraise. 

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