6 top picks for off-the-shelf snacks

Some smart store-bought choices as well as a look at the anatomy of a healthy lunch.

By Fran Berkoff

Tips for a healthy lunch

Let's face it: Kids are pretty picky eaters. That's why it's so important to make their meals interesting as well as healthy. And this is especially true for the midday meal. Lunch, after all, provides fuel to keep your little darlings going all afternoon. Give them proper nutrition and you'll help keep their brains working at their max. Here's a balanced meal that you can take anywhere.

A healthy lunch should include foods from all four food groups.
1. Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, calcium-fortified soy or rice beverages, pudding)

2. Vegetables and fruit (fresh fruit, cut up raw vegetables, vegetable or fruit juice, vegetable soup, a vegetable wrap)

3. Meat and alternates (lean meat, chicken, cheese, fish, bean salad, hard-boiled eggs, soy products)

4. Grains (whole wheat bread, roll or bagel, whole wheat muffin, flour tortilla, pasta, cereal, rice)

Healthy lunch tips
If your children continually bring home uneaten lunches, ask yourself what you can do to improve their eating habits. Here are a few tips.

• Get kids involved in planning meals they will enjoy. Let them help you make up weekly menus, shopping lists and even help you do the shopping.

• Let your youngsters help in meal preparation. They can help make part or all of their lunches either the night before or in the morning.

• Make sure the lunch is properly packed. A few good investments are a wide-mouth vacuum flask for soups or hot meals and ice packs or insulated boxes or bags to keep cold foods cold. Frozen juice boxes also make good ice packs.

• Use a variety of tasty and visually interesting breads for sandwiches, such as regular or mini whole wheat pitas, English muffins, flour tortillas or oatmeal or rye bread. For younger children, cut their sandwiches into cute shapes using a variety of cookie cutters.

• Make a colourful fruit salad with oranges, kiwis, grapes and bananas.

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