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Lunchbox classics get a better-for-you update … and that’s no baloney

Can kids enjoy their favorite lunchtime standbys and be healthier too?

Yes, says Liz Weiss, registered dietitian and founder of MealMakeoverMoms.com. The key to a homerun for lunch, according to Weiss, is to throw a few curveballs into the mix.

“There’s a reason kids love classics like bologna sandwiches and PB&J – they are familiar,” says Weiss.  “But with just a few tweaks, parents can amp up the good nutrition and the excitement of those lunchbox basics.”

Weiss, coauthor of the family cookbook, “No Whine with Dinner,” offers tips for putting a nutritious spin on kids’ lunchtime favorites while keeping them “trade proof”:

* Beyond white or wheat. Sandwich bread options have come a long way. With pitas, naan, flatbreads, tortillas and more, any sandwich can have a global flair. Choose whole grain options made with ingredients like 100 percent whole wheat and rolled oats. The reason: Whole grains provide more fiber as well as nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium, important for strong bones.

* The deli difference: Not all lunchmeat is created equal. Look for natural and organic brands like Applegate made with a short, “clean” list of ingredients and no antibiotics or artificial colors, flavors or additives. Applegate makes a full line of deli meats, including a new bologna with less fat and sodium than traditional brands.

* Nutty for butters: Up the ante and the variety on the classic PB&J sandwich by replacing the peanut butter with other butters such as almond, sunflower or cashew. For a fun twist, spread your child’s favorite nut butter and jelly on lavash bread, roll up, and then slice into “sushi” rolls.

* Fruit inside, not on the side: Consider incorporating fruit into a sandwich. Who says peanut butter sandwiches have to have jelly? Why not add thinly sliced bananas, strawberries or even kiwi fruit? Making a PB&J into a PB&F cuts the added sugar and boosts the flavor and nutrients. Ham & cheese sammies also pair nicely with fruit, especially sliced, crisp apples.

* Take the chip off the shoulder: Let kids feel like mom caved on the chips by making a savory dip with yogurt or hummus and adding whole wheat pita chips and some veggies on the side. It’s like party food for lunch. For more tips and recipes, visit Applegate at www.applegate.com.

“With subtle changes and some playful surprises, kids can feel like they are in their food comfort zone and parents can feel good about giving their children something healthier,” says Weiss.

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