By Ella Brooks
Say so long to that tired PB&J sandwich and sugary juice box -- and hello to delicious, nutritious school-lunch ideas that your child will devour. In a recent study from the nonprofit Agatston Research Foundation in Miami Beach, Fla., students who ate lunches that contained more whole grains, less total and saturated fat, more fresh produce and less added sugar than typical school lunches had lower blood pressure and were less likely to be overweight.
We caught up with certified natural chef Patty James, author of More Vegetables, Please! Over 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes for Eating Healthy Foods Each and Every Day. As founder of the nonprofit Shine the Light on America's Kids, James drove cross-country and spoke to children in every state about what it means to be healthy. "Kids know that when they skip breakfast and don't have lunch, they feel tired, they can't concentrate, and they don't do as well in school," says James. Help your child ace her exams and stay healthy by making over her lunchbox with these healthy school-lunch ideas.
Sandwiches are a cinch to make. "Buy bread that supplies at least 3 grams of fiber per slice," says James. "And think of a sandwich as a vehicle to get more produce into your kid's diet." Here's how to snazz up the standards:
Is your little one sick of sandwiches? Try one of these easy dishes that supply protein and whole grains:
Turn the usual accompaniments (potato chips, crackers, etc.) from nutritional zeroes into nutritional heroes:
These sweet surprises are more nutritious (and more creative) than packaged chocolate-chip cookies or animal crackers:
One recent study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that kids' intakes of calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E decreased as their consumption of sugary beverages increased. Those who downed the most sugary beverages were twice as likely to be overweight and/or obese. Skip soda in favor of these drinks:
Ella Brooks is a New York City-based health writer and editor who has covered health and nutrition for magazines and newspapers nationwide, including Shape, Prevention, Natural Health and Woman's Day. She's a devout hand washer and never misses her annual flu vaccine.
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