Health Watch -- Packing the Lunch Box

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Pack fuel for bodies and brains in school lunch boxes.

As the school year begins in many parts of the country, parents face the dilemma of finding a balance between delicious and nutritious to pack in children's school lunches. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say rising child obesity rates are a clear signal that parents need to help children learn healthy eating habits. The lunch box is a good place to start.

If you ask a child what belongs in the lunch box, you'll probably hear a lot about chips and candy bars or other treats. Lona Sandon, a UT Southwestern registered dietitian who teaches clinical nutrition, says it's better to keep health in mind when packing the lunch. A school-day lunch provides fuel for both the body and the brain, and children who eat nutritious meals tend to do better in school.

Here are some suggestions for nutritious school lunches: small containers of cottage cheese or yogurt, fruit cups, pudding cups made with skim milk, small packets of pre-cut carrot or celery sticks with dip or yogurt tubes.

A sandwich made with whole-grain bread and lean meats or peanut butter is a good source of protein. Substitute yogurt smoothies for soft drinks and wheat crackers for chips. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always good to include in a lunch box.

If you have to include chips and candy, try baked potato chips instead of fried. Buy fun-sized candy bars to add to the lunch box instead of full-sized bars.

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Aug. 2004

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