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August 1, 2014, 3:49 am

Let kids help plan their school lunches

To help parents and caregivers faced with the ever-challenging task of preparing healthful school lunches that kids will actually eat, registered dietitian Sarah Wally offers a few tips:

Include all food groups. A balanced lunch is a healthful lunch. Follow the MyPlate meal- planning model and pack a serving or two from each of the following categories: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and protein. Vegetables and fruits should account for roughly half of the meal.

Keep foods safe. Making sure hot foods stay hot and cool foods stay cool is imperative to keep food-borne illness at bay. Insulated thermoses are a great option for storing soups or warm pasta. Adding a frozen juice box to your kid’s lunch bag creates an instant ice pack to keep cool items chilled and it will defrost just in time to enjoy at lunch. As a bonus, just 4 ounces of 100 percent juice counts as a serving (half a cup) of fruit.

Get the kids involved. Asking your children to help plan their weekly lunches lets them feel important and in control. Share with them your criteria for a healthy lunch and then give them some options to choose from. Kids will enjoy a break from repetitious lunches and learn a bit about creating healthful meals.

Use lunchtime as a way to connect. A handwritten note can be a surprising, sentimental way to reconnect with your kids. Use a napkin to write a few words of encouragement before that after-lunch test or important soccer game. It can make their day.

Recipe for a healthful lunchbox

• Choose whole-grain breads and crackers for added fiber.

• Pack 100 percent juice, providing vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds called phytonutrients.

• Stick to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

• Help your kids to “eat the rainbow” by offering a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

For more information, log on to www.fruitjuicefacts.org.