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Back To School Lunches: Sending Your Child To School With A Healthy But Tasty Lunch

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Every day this week more and more school districts are having their first day of classes, and the first day of school lunches.

Nutritionists say making sure your child eats the right things is as important as making sure they have basic school supplies.

Keep in mind they have a very limited amount of time at lunch.

"Kids only have like twenty-ish minutes for lunchtime," says Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Registered Dietitian Evelyn Benden. "So making sure things are cut up ahead of time and bite-sized pieces or small pieces, they're already opened or in easy to open containers."

When it comes to deciding what to pack Benden says, "You can help involve the kids and you know maybe picking out foods you're going to buy what's going to go in their lunch so they know what's coming."

Because if they know in advance they are more likely to eat it all.

Understanding that mornings are pressure-packed for most families Benden says consider, "Prepping maybe on Sunday or over the weekend cutting up fruits and vegetables putting things in containers ahead of time so you can just grab them and go, during the week."

She says variety is important to keep lunch interesting as long as you are hitting the basics, "packing fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy."

WATCH: Packing Your Child A Healthy Lunch

On that list, Benden says protein is critical.

"That's probably the hardest thing for lunch," she says. "Thinking of deli meats is okay, but you could even do just like a chicken breast, you could do hummus or a hardboiled egg."

Next on the vital list are those fruits and veggies.

"Cutting up like the fruits and vegetables or even the fruit cups as, as long as they're in their own juice," she explains.

Most schools have milk available to fill the dairy need but Benden says, "Yogurt is a great dairy option if they don't like to drink milk you know you can throw a yogurt in there."

As for grains, "You want to try to pick whole grains for the grains so not so many white, white bread or crackers with a perfect whole wheat or whole grains."

She also says tortillas are good and tend to be more fun for kids.

Even old standards are good like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, easy on the jelly. "Peanut Butter is actually you know, a pretty good source of protein."

But not every day.

Benden says even before they go out the door to school try to get your child to eat something. "Definitely having a protein and a fiber source gives them good energy to start their day."

When packing your child's lunch Benden says convenience is important.

"I think making it easy for them to eat is probably the most important thing, then they're going to be more likely to eat it," Benden says.

If your child is going to be eating the lunches provided at school Benden recommends going over the menu in advance and where there are choices try to guide them towards the healthier options.

But understand once they are out of sight they are going to do what they want and you just have to hope your message gets through.

As for lunchtime trading with other kids...

Well, some things are just out of your control.

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