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Back to School: Planning Healthy Lunches for Your Child

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Your child's healthy lunch doesn't begin at noon when they join their friends at the cafeteria and sit down to enjoy their meal. Instead, a healthy lunch begins with the trip to the grocery store to purchase the best foods to create a nutritious and well-balanced lunch.

Supermarkets are filled with nutritious choices nowadays and by enlisting the help of your child when shopping for their lunch foods, he or she can learn how to make the best choices as they grow up and create meals of their own. Be sure to check out the following areas of your supermarket and your child's lunch will not only be filled with great tasting foods, but it will also create a healthy lunch.

The Produce Section: The produce section is always a good place to start when it comes to a healthy lunch. Choosing fruits and vegetables that your child enjoys and even some they may have never tried is a great idea and is always a good place to find those important vitamins and minerals that every child needs.

The Drink Aisle: While many children would love to enjoy a sugary soft drink with their lunch, a better option is a 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, low-fat milk, water or lightly sweetened tea instead. Be a label reader and avoid juices with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors.

The Bakery Section: According to Nutrition.about.com, sandwiches are a popular choice for school lunches but instead of white bread try whole grain bread, wraps or pitas. If your child resists whole grain breads, use bread that is made with whole grain but still has the flavor and texture of white bread.

The Dairy Section: The dairy section is also an area where you can find some great foods. Try low-fat dairy options, like cottage cheese, string cheese and yogurt.

The Snack Food Aisle: Many parents would avoid this aisle completely, but there are still some great lunch items that can be found in the snack food aisle. Be on the lookout for baked and not fried snacks, avoid Tran's fats, choose whole-wheat over non-whole grain snacks, and grab some all natural granola bars that offer whole grains, nuts and pieces of fruit all in one snack.

Here are some other ideas for healthy snacks that you can easily send your child to school with:

Send a salad in a small plastic container. Keep the dressing on the side in a separate smaller container. Cheese sticks go well with sandwiches and are a good source of calcium. Whole grain snack crackers add a nice crunch and lots of healthy fiber. Make a fruit salad with grapes, melons chunks, and blueberries. Dried fruit, like raisins, dried cranberries or banana chips Nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts Pack a cold pasta salad, cole slaw, or potato salad. Baby carrots with a small container of vegetable dip Crunchy raw green beans with a small container of ranch or French onion dip Prepackaged, flavored low-fat yogurt

Just by paying some attention to the labels and what is going into your child's lunch each day; your child will have the nutrition and energy necessary to get through his or her day, the healthy way.