Every time you pack your kids' lunches, you have an opportunity to give them a fun, healthy meal. Are you making the most of it? Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD and Liz Weiss, MS, RD, authors of the book "No Whine with Dinner," along with the California Raisin Marketing Board, offer the following tips for better lunches:
* Take a Lunchbox Assessment. Look at your children's lunches. Healthy lunches should include whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, pitas or tortillas; high-quality lean protein, such as roasted deli turkey, beans or tofu; low-fat dairy, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and calcium-fortified soy milk; and fruits and vegetables, such as sliced apples, strawberries, California raisins, sliced bell pepper strips, baby carrots or raw green beans.
If your child's lunch doesn't contain something from each food group, figure out where you can add healthier foods. Improving your child's lunch could be as simple as using whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or adding more fruit.
* Add "Try-it" Foods. Play the "try-it" game. When you go to the grocery store, let your kids choose a new fruit or vegetable they haven't tried before, like yellow bell pepper or papaya. Bring it home, sample it, and consider adding the new "try-it food" to the lunch box that week.
* Pack Satisfying Snacks. A hearty and healthy mid-morning snack can hold your child over until lunch. Make snacks count toward good nutrition by packing fruit or homemade baked goodies like muffins, quick breads or "granola" bars. Enhance your recipes by adding whole-wheat flour or wheat germ for added fiber and nutrients, dried fruits such as California raisins for added antioxidants, and finely chopped nuts for extra protein.