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Ask An Expert: School Lunches Kids Can Make

More than 30 years ago, Dr. Neal Barnard set out on a pioneering mission – to improve the health and well being of people, animals and the environment. Barnard has written 18 books, including national bestsellers Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes, 21-day Weight Loss Kickstart, and Power Foods For the Brain, hundreds of articles and appeared countless times on national television as a world expert on health and nutrition.

Dr. Neal Barnard
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
5100 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 686-2210
www.pcrm.orgMany parents are confused on what the nutrition needs are for their children. Obesity, diabetes and other health issues are on the rise in children. It is important for parents to set healthy eating patterns as soon as possible. Children copy the behavior of their parents, so parents can set a good example by preparing and eating healthy foods themselves. Dr. Barnard has created a free booklet Nutrition for Kids – A Dietary Approach to Lifelong Health to help. With lunch being one of the meals most likely consumed away from home, Dr. Barnard offers these expert tips on healthy school lunches that kids can make.

Make Something DifferentCool lunches are in so taking spring rolls or sushi to school will make your child stand out in a good way. It takes a little practice, but learning to make sushi rolls can be a fun family event. Some children are natural at rolling and pressing sushi. The sushi or spring rolls can be stuffed with avocado (healthy fat), carrots (beta carotene for eyesight), cucumbers (potassium), even last night's left over asparagus (fiber and folate). Rice is a good carbohydrate that contains vitamin D and calcium.

Get Kindergarten Children Involved In Preparing LunchesLittle ones always want to be part of the action; plus, they want to do things independently. Ask them to put baby carrots or carrot sticks and finger fruits like blueberries and raspberries into zipper-style snack bags.

What's Between The Bread Building nutrient-rich sandwiches are easy. For example the classic peanut butter and jelly is protein-packed. To make it healthier, opt for preserves which have whole fruit instead of just sugar-filled jelly. Sprinkling a little chia seeds on the peanut butter boosts omega 3 consumption without changing the taste. Gram for gram, chia seeds have more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon. If your school is a peanut free institution then there are substitutes like Wowbutter that taste the same. For luncheon meats and cheese, there are plenty of healthy options that are also cruelty-free. Tofurky, Litelife and Field Roast Grain Meat Co. all make a variety of tasty luncheon items; just don't forget to add some lettuce, tomato and a plant-based mayo like Fabanaise.

Related: Ask An Expert: Giving Picky Eaters Healthy Food

Lunch SwapThis is a different kind of swap. Have you child make your lunch and you make his. This activity will help reinforce the basic building blocks of good health. You can hold up a tomato and say 'Tell me what does a tomato have?' Depending on the child's age answers might be fiber, vitamin C or lycopene. As your child builds your salad and you build his sandwich, he will remember these elements as being essential to healthy meal preparation.

Leftovers For LunchLast night's spiralized veggies (zucchini or sweet potato) are the newest thing in pasta and can be repurposed into today's lunch. Toss in a few more veggies like grape tomatoes, carrots and cucumber, add your favorite dressing and you've got a quick lunch. Slurping noodles is still fun and now it is even more healthy.

That's A WrapMaking a wrap is an easy way to make lunch and skip the bread. All the items you would put between two slices of bread can go onto a tortilla or large collard green or kale leaf.

Related: Ask A Chef: Top Meatloaf Recipes

Robin D. Everson's appreciation for art, food, wine, people, and places has helped her become a well-respected journalist. As a multi-faceted entrepreneur, Robin brings a unique look at the world of business through her many interviews and articles. A life-long lover of education, Robin seeks to learn and enlighten others about culture. You can contact her at
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