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Packing Healthy Lunches, Brought to you by Del Monte

You bought the new book bag, got all new clothes and found the perfect lunch bag for back to school. So now, what are you going to put in the lunch bag? Lunches are an opportunity to teach your kids about nutrition. It is the first meal where they will have the opportunity to make their own nutritional choices because you are not there. Take time to talk about lunch with your kids. If you typically pack for them, go over the different food groups and talk about why each one is important. Discuss why junk foods should be limited and not eaten every day. If they buy from the school lunch program, go through the choices and talk about how to create a healthy meal.

The Importance of Food Groups
It is important to get at least 3-4 food groups into your kid's lunch. This will help make their meal more balanced and provide the nutrients they need to get through the day. Have your kids help pack the lunch in the morning. Guide them to healthy foods like low fat yogurts, whole grain breads, pita or crackers, Del Monte® Fruit Cup® Snacks or other fruits, applesauce, cut vegetables, salsas, low fat cheeses, lean meats, and peanut butter. Then let them choose which foods to put in their lunch. As they choose, have them tell you which food group each food represents. If they only have two food groups represented, then they need to make different choices. This helps them gain confidence to make healthy choices even when you are not around.

Here are some other tips to help brighten and lighten up lunches:
Avoid the sandwich slump. Sandwiches are great, especially if we cut them into shapes, use whole wheat breads, tuna, lean meats or peanut butter, but they can get boring to kids. Instead make the sandwiches by using spinach wraps and layering cucumbers, spinach or Del Monte® Mandarin Oranges with their favorite cheese or meat. Pack crackers or cut up pita, thin slices of apple, cheese, green peppers or hummus and let them make their own sandwich. Try cold pasta with Del Monte® Summer Crisp Corn and grape tomatoes to change up the sandwich routine.

Beware of beverages. Kids often get a large number of calories from beverages. Consider getting a new water bottle to encourage drinking water over other sugary beverages. Look for small juice boxes (4-6oz) or flavored waters that contain less than 50 calories per serving. Consider getting milk at school or pack a thermos with skim milk from home.

Make fruits and vegetables attractive and easy. Cut fruit and vegetables differently each time, small chunks one day and long straight pieces the next time. Have healthy dips like yogurt, peanut butter or light dressing to make them fun to eat. Look for fun packages like Del Monte® 70 calorie Fruit Cup® Snacks and Del Monte® Fruit Burst Squeezers. These are easy for your kids to just grab and go.

Make lunch fun. Every once in a while, include a special sweet treat with your child's lunch like Del Monte® Fruit Cup® Snacks and Del Monte® Fruit Burst Squeezers. Or it could be something small like their favorite cookie or small candy. This keeps lunch exciting and teaches kids about eating sweets in moderation. By being creative and giving your kids information on why their bodies need good nutrition you will be more successful at packing healthy lunches. It will help your kids make better choices in the future and get an A+ in their next nutrition class.
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