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Pack a lunch that includes a protein, fruit, vegetable, and healthy drink.

Plan Ahead

Take some time to plan weekly menus. Putting a little thought and planning into mealtimes generally yields big health and economic advantages. It also gives you and your family an opportunity to try new recipes and be adventurous.

Get Creative

Sometimes, it takes a while for kids to accept new foods, so part of the challenge is coming up with creative options and having a variety of foods in their diet that include whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

"It may help to gradually ease your child into trying new food combos. Instead of peanut butter and jelly every day, you might pair peanut butter with slices of banana," says Dr. Sharon Pettway, a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold's Cypress Clinic.

Involve Your Kids

Involve your children in picking out their foods and packing the lunch box so they can find out what they like. If you include them in the planning and decision-making process, they'll be more likely to eat it. Use these activities to understand children’s food preferences, teach children about nutrition, and encourage them to try new healthy foods.

"When packing their lunches, remember that during a school lunch hour, kids don't have much time to eat and they don't want to spend that time getting their foods ready. Cut and peel fruits and vegetables in advance, or buy baby carrots, sliced apples, raisins, and grapes in ready-to-eat servings," suggests Dr. Pettway.

Also, keep beverages low in sugar and high in nutrients. Rather than soda or juice, place a little bottle of water or a small container of low-fat milk in the bag.

Additional Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

Here are a few more tips to help your child make healthy food choices:

  • Pack a lunch that includes a protein, fruit, vegetable, and healthy drink, such as sugar-free juice or water.
  • Remember to stick to whole grains. Start with a healthy bread that has two or more grams of fiber per slice. For variety, use a pita, a bagel, a roll, or a wrap instead of bread.
  • For a snack, try sliced cucumbers or sliced pickles.
  • Variety is the key, so be sure to include things like yogurt, low-fat cheese, and an apple or grapes. Add some low-fat dip for veggies.

Healthy After-school Snacks

Make sure your kitchen is stocked with nutritious options.

Brown Rice Cakes

Spread with natural peanut butter.
Top with reduced-fat natural cheese and/or lean meat.

Fruit and Vegetables

Cut, chop, or slice fresh fruit and vegetables in advance and store in the refrigerator in easily accessible containers. Store fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter.
Serve them with low-fat dip, salad dressing or hummus.

Baked Tortilla Chips and Salsa

Consider serving low-fat refried or whole beans in addition to salsa.
If you have time, make nachos by adding extras like melted reduced-fat cheese, diced tomatoes, green peppers, onion, low-fat sour cream, and guacamole.

Whole Grain, Low-fat Crackers

Serve with reduced-fat natural cheese and lean meat.
If using packaged meat, choose “natural” or “nitrite-free” varieties with minimal processing and preservatives, and those with less than 20 percent of the daily value for sodium.

Spread with natural peanut butter or reduced-fat cream cheese.

Whole Grain Miniature Bagels

Top with reduced-fat natural cheese and/or lean meat.
Spread with jam, natural peanut (or other nut) butter, or plain or flavored reduced-fat cream cheese.
To add texture, toast the bagel.

Reduced-fat or Light String Cheese

This is a good source of protein and calcium and a great accompaniment to any snack.
Serve with fruit, vegetables, popcorn, or whole-grain crackers.

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Sharon Pettway, MD

​I believe in working together with parents as a team. It is important to me to find the treatment approach that is most comfortable to the parents. I find this approach ensures compliance and the patients ultimately benefit.​