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Lunch box 101: Quick and easy solutions for providing your children with a healthy lunch

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Writer: CRYSTAL BREAUX / Small Town Kids / Summer 2016

Do you dread packing your children’s lunches for school? On the first week of the school year it can be fun using all of your new and cute containers. Then the newness wears off and your ideas for good lunches head out the door. The desire to provide your children a healthy lunch is replaced with the need to make the process as quick and convenient as possible.
I have a 12- and 8-year-old. I understand the challenges of trying to pack a lunch for kids who are less than enthusiastic about eating raw vegetables. So, how do you provide a healthy, well-balanced lunch each day without grossing out your kids and having them throw out the food?

TAKE CONTROL

To get started, follow the Healthy Plate Design, which provides guidelines on the proper proportions of different food groups, and eliminate as many packaged food products as possible.
Your child’s lunch should contain one serving of a fruit, vegetable, healthy grain, protein and dairy. Using this as a guideline, it becomes a matter of filling in categories with different foods. In addition to healthy options, remember that balance and portion control are keys.
As I am writing this, my 8-your-old son wants me to include that sugar is a “sometimes food” and can be had in moderation. Think about portion control and teaching your kids how to eat responsibly, instead of eliminating sweets all together.
Besides healthy selections, I also pack in their lunches a small treat, such as one cookie. Keep plastic bags on hand so you can control the portion size of the treat, instead of relying on the package the food came in, to determine the quantity that ends up in a lunch.

QUICK AND EASY

Lack of preparation and teamwork can make packing lunches unbearable not to mention chaotic. To make school-day mornings go much smoother, I have learned a few tricks.
1. Cut up fruit at the beginning of the week and place pieces in snack-size bags for portion control and quick access.
2. Do as much preparation as possible the night before. Unpack lunch kits and containers. Prepare foods that can be stored in the refrigerator and then group them together there for quick retrieval.
3. Gets kids involved. Put kids in charge of preparing or gathering one lunch food item. My kindergartener was able to handle this responsibility. Children may be more likely to eat a food if they pack it. Have each child unpack and clean out their lunch bag. Make each child be responsible for his/her drink. I recommend water or Crystal Lite. Avoid bottled or packed juices to cut down on cost and calories. Use a box drink only as an occasional treat.
For something different, take one night-time meal a week and convert it into a school lunch. For example: Left-over turkey tacos or chicken fajitas make for healthy and quick lunch.
By following the Healthy Plate Design and doing what you can the night before, you and your kids may discover your own fresh ideas.
Don’t start this school-year packing your kids healthy lunches and then not keep it up because you’re exhausted and out of ideas. With a little preparation and family teamwork, your kids can have healthy lunches that they enjoy.

HEALTHY LUNCHES

Lunch 1

Healthy sandwich plate
Fruit – fresh strawberries
Vegetable – sliced cucumbers
Grain and protein – peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat sandwich round
Dairy and protein – yogurt (look for those under 12 grams of sugar) or stick cheese
Treat in healthy portion – 1 or 2 cookies in a snack-size bag

For variations, replace whole-wheat bread with a low-carb wrap, such as Missions low-carb tortilla (my favorite). Use fresh deli meat instead of pre-packaged lunch meat. Omit bread and make your own lunch-able style lunch.

Lunch 2

Turkey roll plate
Fruit – cuties or halos (small oranges)
Vegetable – raw carrots and dip
Grain and protein – deli turkey roll with whole wheat crackers or pretzels
Dairy and protein – stick cheese
Treat in healthy portion – one Hershey kiss with a graham cracker

Lunch 3

Turkey/chicken tacos
Fruit – fresh pineapple or apple
Vegetable – green leaf lettuce
Grain and protein – chicken or turkey tacos in a low-carb tortilla with salsa
Dairy and protein – shredded cheese
Treat in healthy portion – tortilla chips in snack bag

Lunch 4

Turkey/Chicken taco salad
Vegetable – large green leaf salad, tomato (optional)
Protein – chicken or turkey taco meat, black beans, avocado with salsa on side
Dairy and protein – shredded cheese and yogurt
Treat in healthy portion – tortilla chips in snack bag to sprinkle on salad

Through coaching, Crystal Breaux helps women keep on a healthy diet, find time for exercise and family and build faith. To learn more, go to yourfitnessdesigner.com.

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