Building a smarter sandwich, adding fruits and vegetables and more tips for parents.


As you prep for back to school, here are some tips to help you put together a healthy, energy-packed meal:

Build a smarter sandwich. Start with 100% whole-wheat bread slices or pita (not refined-flour white versions); add some lean protein, like turkey or roast beef, and low-fat cheese slices — even spread on a little guacamole for some healthy fat. Peanut butter and jelly on whole-grain crackers or grilled chicken in a whole-wheat wrap works, too. Ask your children which of the healthier ingredients they like best – getting them involved in the planning and prep makes it more likely they'll eat their lunch.

Balance with fruits and veggies. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber., and with a little creativity, you can pack a few servings into your little ones' lunch box: Make a veggie kabob with cherry tomatoes, carrots and other raw vegetables and let them dip the chunks into yogurt or hummus; fill a celery stalk with peanut butter and dot with raisins; or try a fruit pizza made with a whole-wheat English muffin, low-fat cream cheese and topped with berries.

Choose drinks with less sugar. Some juice boxes and fruit-flavored pouches contain the same or more sugar per ounce than sodas and other soft drinks. Studies have suggested a link between drinking sugary beverages and childhood obesity. Pack water or low-fat or fat-free milk instead. If your little one doesn't like plain milk, try adding a touch of chocolate or strawberry flavoring – a little bit may make a big difference in terms of taste, but won't add a significant amount of sugar, suggest experts at Nemours, a nonprofit devoted to children's health.

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