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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 01:23 pm

Sack lunch inspiration

Pack your kid’s lunch with MyPlate in mind

Hummus and veggie wraps

At the start of a new school year, kids tend to be more excited about getting new pens, pencils and backpacks than anything else, but more often than not they are ready to put their thinking caps on.  

One of the most important things children can do to ensure that they are focused, engaged and ready to absorb all the new information at school is to eat three balanced meals each day that are filled with wholesome and delicious foods and beverages. MyPlate is the U.S. government’s recommendation as to which food groups should be included.

Lunch makes up a third of your child’s nutritional needs for the day. Children’s lunch at school helps them feel full as well as providing them energy to learn and play. Good nutritional status has been linked to academic performance in school, which means what your child is taught, he or she will remember. Food is fuel for the brain and body, and some “fuels” are better than others.

Many parents face a decision each morning before sending their children off to school whether to pack lunch for them or not. If you have a picky eater in the family it can be hard to know for sure if your child eats enough, whether or not they take a parent-and-kid-approved packed lunch to school.

Whether your child is a picky eater or not, children are generally more likely to eat their lunch if they are involved in the packing process. They like having a role in including foods they already enjoy eating as well as choosing new things. They will be more likely to eat most of their lunch at school when it is their creation.

When packing your kids’ lunches,
include all five food groups:

1. Fruits

2. Vegetables

3. Grains – (Try packing whole grains that your child will eat, like whole-grain crackers or corn tortillas.)

4. Lean protein (lean meats, nuts/nut butter, seeds and beans). Caution: Many schools have a “no nuts” policy because of food allergies.

5. Dairy    

- Treats are fine occasionally, but think back to when you were a child and what you ate for lunch and then ask yourself this question:  Is my child going to eat their nutritious foods if I put this treat (brownie, candy bar, cookies, etc.) in their lunch bag?

- Providing treats at home to your kids after they return from school or at your discretion can help you control their portions of these foods as well as ensure that they are eating a nutritious lunch – not just ditching the five food groups for a candy bar.

Here are some ideas and a recipe to help you pack all five food groups in your child’s lunch:

• 100 percent fruit cup, baby carrots with ranch dip, ½ whole wheat pita pocket sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, mustard or light mayo, lean deli turkey or chicken, and a piece of light string cheese.

• Whole grain tortilla spread with 1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter and 1 banana, 6 sweet cherry tomatoes with veggie dip, container of low-fat yogurt or carton of low-fat milk.

• Celery sticks with peanut butter, whole-grain crackers, 1/3 cup tuna or chicken salad, a low-fat yogurt tube, 8 oz. 100 percent grape juice or apple juice.

• Diced strawberries and blueberries, sugar-snap peas with ranch dip or a cup of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwich with two slices whole-wheat bread, 1 slice of Colby Jack cheese and 1 slice of mozzarella cheese.

• Sliced orange wedges, sweet red and green bell pepper strips with hummus, 1 or 2 whole-grain English muffin halves with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese (mini pizzas), hard-boiled egg, and a carton of low-fat plain milk or chocolate milk.

Hope Danielson, left, is the Director of Health and Wellness for County Market. Melanie Kluzek is a registered dietitian for County Market.

Hummus and Veggie Wraps
Total time: 5 minutes
Serves 1 person

• 1 (8-inch) whole grain-tortilla
• 1/4 cup pre-packaged hummus
• 1/4 cup lettuce, sliced, or baby spinach leaves
• 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped, toasted
• 2 tablespoons red bell peppers, chopped, roasted
• 2 tablespoons carrot, coarsely shredded
• 8 cucumber slices, peeled

Place tortilla on a flat surface and spread hummus over 2/3 of the tortilla, leaving the top empty.
Top evenly with lettuce and vegetables and roll up tightly, starting at the bottom. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to eat. Makes 1 wrap.
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