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    6 Easy Lunch and Snack Ideas

    packing a lunch

    Want to pack healthy lunches and snacks for your kids, but can’t seem to find the time? You’re not alone. According to recent Nielsen data, only 22% of school lunches are homemade, and parents rank convenience above nutrition.

    Studies consistently show that kids who eat a well-balanced diet perform better in school than those who don’t. So while you’re picking up school essentials like pencils and notebooks, don’t forget to restock your kitchen with easy-to-prepare foods that provide your child with the nutrients they need.

    A well-balanced lunch should include a serving of:

    • Whole or enriched grains for energy
    • Protein like nut butter, fish or poultry for staying power
    • Fruit or veggies for vitamins and fiber
    • Dairy like milk, yogurt or cheese.

    Here are lunch and snack ideas that make the grade and are ready in minutes:

    Lunches:

    1. Whole wheat pasta with broccoli, tuna, grated cheddar and cherry tomatoes
    Whole wheat pasta (or a blend of whole wheat and enriched pasta) will give kids a fiber and energy boost, and the tuna will help them stay full for longer. Add in at least 1 cup of broccoli and tomatoes for vitamins and minerals. Pack with a piece of fruit and low-fat yogurt.

    2. Turkey and cheese roll up on a whole-wheat wrap

    I like to take a twist on regular sandwiches by using a healthier wrap in place of white bread. Look for wraps that are low in fat, contain at least 5 grams of fiber and are made with whole grains, like Flatout 100% Whole Wheat. For just 100 calories, these wraps pack in 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of filling protein. Load the wrap with dark, leafy greens, 2-3 ounces of turkey and 1-2 slices of low-fat cheese.  Complete the lunchbox with a fruit serving.

    3. Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

    A well-stocked pantry with essentials including spices, canned beans, tomatoes and other veggies equals no-fuss lunches in minutes. I make meals using canned staples at least twice a week, like this Three Bean Chili. It takes just 15 minutes and can be prepared ahead and packed in school lunches. Add whole grain crackers or a slice of multigrain bread, a piece of fruit and a dairy option and you have a well-balanced, healthy lunch. Canned fruits and veggies are available year-round and they’re so convenient, healthier homemade meals can become a reality more often.

    Snacks:

    The golden rule for a healthy snack is to make sure it has a good mix of complex carbs, protein and fiber. Here are three to try:

    1. In-Shell Pistachios

    Kids love crunchy snacks, but salty chips are calorie-rich and nutrient-poor. Pack a crunchy surprise like in-shell pistachios instead. A serving of pistachios offers 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein to keep kids satisfied. For the same 160-calorie serving, you get around 49 nuts compared to 15 chips—plus 3 times the fiber and protein.

    2. Hummus and Veggies

    Kids love to dip! And studies show that when veggies are served with a dip, kids eat more of the beneficial vegetables. Rich, creamy hummus provides fiber and protein to keep kids feeling full. Serve it with fresh cut veggies for a convenient snack or lunch box addition.

    3. Cheese with Fruit and Crackers

    Low-fat cheese is a great way to pack more protein and calcium into kids’ diets. Combine with whole wheat crackers and fruit, like apple slices or seedless grapes, for added fiber and energy.

    Further Reading:
    Slideshow: School Lunches for Kids
    Healthy Eating Habits for Children
    Fiber-Rich Lunch Helps Ease Kids’ Constipation

    Important:

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