Food & Drink

Pack a school lunch that makes the grade

As an alternative to ordinary sandwiches, try topping pita pockets with SoyNut butter, apple butter and slices of fresh apple.
As an alternative to ordinary sandwiches, try topping pita pockets with SoyNut butter, apple butter and slices of fresh apple. Angela B. Garbot

It's a good thing Kaitlyn Tyson, 7, doesn't get to pack her own school lunch box.

Last week, while getting ready for school to resume, Ashley Tyson of Lexington asked her daughter what she would like in her lunch.

"Candy," Kaitlyn replied.

Despite her wishes, her mother will be sending Kaitlyn with a sandwich, applesauce, chips and a dessert.

"The sandwich is almost always peanut butter," Tyson said. "Applesauce is the closest I can get to sending her a fruit. She is a picky eater, and I would love to have options that she enjoys. I have a hard time finding healthy choices that Kaitlyn will eat."

This week, many parents in Central Kentucky face the same dilemma: Packing a lunch bag with foods their children will eat but that aren't full of say, candy.

What's a parent to do?

First, don't take kids grocery shopping for school lunch items, says registered dietitian Maggie Green of Fort Wright.

"Stick to what they need to eat most. If they're hungry, they'll eat," she said. "Also, don't be afraid of using a stainless Thermos that can be preheated with hot water. Thick soups work best for holding the heat."

Gina Clemons of Lexington started packing lunch for her son, Caleb, 15, when he was in middle school "because the wait in the lunch line was so long and again in high school because he said there were no healthy choices."

Clemons finds that providing variety at lunch kept her son happy and full.

"You can buy the small disposable cups with lids that hold 1/4 cup or less to hold whipped cream or dressing or peanut butter for dipping fruit or veggies into. It doesn't have to be a sandwich, either. I see kids at school getting their protein in a mini version of a meat/cheese tray, a bag of mixed nuts, soy nuts," she said.

Clemons, a kindergarten assistant at Stonewall Elementary, supervises lunches at Stonewall and sees many parents using all reusable containers and not buying individually packaged chips and cookies, she said.

Registered dietitian Janet Tietyen Mullins of Midway recommends alternating wraps, sandwiches and entree salads for school lunches.

"Good sides are homemade Waldorf salad, coleslaw, Caesar, fruit cup, and baby carrots. Muffins with fiber and fruit make good desserts with yogurt," she said.

Dr. Susan Mitchell, a health and nutrition expert for Target stores, has a formula for packed lunches that are good for kids and school work. She suggests including a protein, which helps students stay focused on academic performance; a high-fiber, grain carbohydrate, which helps keep energy up all day; and fruit and vegetables, which provide essential nutrients for a healthy immune system.

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