Nutritionists offer more tips for making kids' lunches healthier

Tips for Parents and Children on Healthy Ideas for School Lunches

With the start of the school year around the corner, now is the perfect time for parents to ramp up efforts at infusing their kids' lunches with creative, healthy options. "You don't have to completely cut back on snacks and sugars to ensure that your child eats a well-balanced meal," explains Dr. Joel Lavine, chief of pediatric gastroenterology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "Kids can still get the sugars they crave from low-fat snacks and fruits, while parents are satisfied with the nutritional content."

In addition to finding healthy food choices, some parents face the challenge of providing meals for their children with digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome. "Try to avoid sending trigger foods," explains Dr. Aliza B. Solomon, a pediatric gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Komansky Center for Children's Health. "For someone with active Crohn's disease, this might mean avoiding high fiber food or fresh fruit. Children with irritable bowel should  avoid foods with polyols, such as sorbitol and xylitol, often found in sugar-free gum, which can lead to bloating."

Nutritionists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital offer more tips on making your kids' lunches healthier:

•    Salty Snack Substitutions. Instead of packing potato chips or pretzels, which have no benefits, try air-popped popcorn (with a little sea salt and olive oil). This provides fiber as well as healthy fat, while providing less sodium than most processed chips and pretzels.

•    Food Allergy Alternatives. For kids with peanut allergies who like their PB&J, try a sunflower seed puree or even a yellow pea puree product available on the market.

•    Kids LOVE Color! How about this for a sandwich alternative: "Rainbow wraps" -- spread hummus and ranch on a whole wheat tortilla and fill with chopped tomato, shredded carrots, lettuce, avocado, cucumbers, and shredded red cabbage.  

•    Be Wise with Bread. Make sandwiches with whole grain bread instead of white bread. Choose breads that list whole wheat as the first ingredient. They're rich in fiber, B vitamins, and iron.

•    Choose Lean Meats. Chicken, turkey, and tuna or salmon packed in water are healthy choices for protein-packed meals.

•    Consider the Calories with Cheese. When adding cheese to sandwiches, opt for low fat or fat-free varieties. Cheeses are high in calcium, which is an important mineral for growing children, but they can also contain a great deal of saturated fat. Low-fat alternatives make a great choice, containing 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.

•    Encourage Their Involvement. Work with your children to pick healthy choices:

o    Go shopping with them

o    Let them help you prepare meals

o    Encourage new choices

o    Offer them a variety

o    Embrace their curiosity and creativity

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