SCCCE shares tips for nutritious school lunches

The back-to-school buzz in is the air, and with it comes both excitement and familiar challenges. You know how important wholesome, filling food is for your little one to do well in school, but packing lunch can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Where to start? In 2011, the US Department of Agriculture released the MyPlate graphic to replace the Food Pyramid. Instead of visualizing the Food Pyramid, individuals can aim to simply make their plate look like the MyPlate graphic at each meal. A balanced meal should be about 25% (1/4) grains or starchy vegetables (think potatoes or corn), and 25% lean protein, like tuna fish, yogurt, peanut butter, or a low-fat, low-sodium, deli meat, such as all-breast turkey. The remaining 50% of the meal should be fruits and vegetables. Sound tricky? Packing MyPlate into your child’s lunchbox can be easier than it sounds. Old USDA Food Pyramid New USDA MyPlate DiagramSource: http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/02 Source: www.choosemyplate.gov/the-usda-ditches-the-food-pyramid-and-offers-a-plate/Here are Five Tips for Packing Healthy School Lunches:1. When packing lunch, think of the MyPlate diagram as a check-list. Have I packed some protein, grain-based food, and fruits and veggies? Kids especially like finger foods, like baby carrots, pepper strips, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices. Research shows that cutting foods up for younger children can make a difference in whether or not they eat the foods, so sliced apples or pears are more kid-friendly than the whole fruit. By sending fresh fruit for your child, you are providing vitamins, minerals, and none of the added sugar that exists in canned fruit and processed fruit snacks, like gummies or juices. 2. Before grocery shopping, get some consensus! Give children the option between three lunchtime snacks, and let them choose two. For example, ask if you should send carrots, celery, or pepper slices, and let your child tell you his or her preferences. Try the same with fruits! Involving children in the decision making process helps them to get excited about the foods in their lunch boxes.3. If your child seems resistant, make changes slowly. If he or she is used to getting chips or cookies with lunch, for example, send only one cookie and apple slices instead of two or three cookies. Try to compromise with your child: one day a week will be potato chip day if the child chooses a veggie for the rest of the week. Instead of a completely new sandwich, consider sneaky upgrades to your child’s favorites, like whole grain breads and wraps, low-fat versions of dairy products, and extra veggies on sandwiches. 4. Don’t overload! While you want to be sure your child has enough to eat at school, resist the temptation to overload the lunchbox. Too many options may backfire with your child not finishing any of them.5. Finally, don’t be discouraged if most of a new food comes back home the first time. Studies show that children must be introduced to foods multiple times before accepting the food, so it may take a few tries before Junior admits he likes veggie wraps.Don’t forget to pack yourself a nutritious lunch to take to work or when out and about by following the same guidelines! Nutrition programming from Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension is supported by a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Seneca CCE HELPS (Healthy Eating and Living for People in Seneca).Totally Awesome Tuna Wrap (makes enough for 2 wraps)Upgrade the typical tuna wrap with this veggie-loaded version (great for moms and dads too!):1 can (5oz) albacore tuna fish in water1 tsp mayonnaise 1 tbsp plain non-fat yogurt (Greek or regular)½ tsp dried dill or parsley or 1 tsp fresh, minced herbs¼ cup chopped cucumber¼ cup chopped celerypepper to tastePer wrap: Leaf romaine lettuce2 slices tomato1 whole-grain wrap or tortillaInstead of mayonnaise, try moistening your tuna fish with plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt. Mix in dill or parsley. Next, mix in chopped cucumber and celery to add more bulk to your bowl without calories. Rinse lettuce and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Break leaf in half and center top half in wrap, spine side down to create a pocket for the tuna. By putting the lettuce in first, it keeps the wrap from getting soggy by lunch time. Add approximately 1/2 of the tuna mixture, tomato slices, and other half of lettuce leaf. Close wrap and wrap in aluminum foil to make easier for your child to hold and eat at lunch time.Nutrition information is per wrap.For nearly 100 years, Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension has served the people of the County, putting to practical use the scholarship and research of Cor¬nell University and the national land grant system in the areas of agriculture and food systems sustainability; families, nutrition, health and safety (human ecology); youth development (4-H); environmental and natural resource enhancement; and community and economic vitality. The office is located at 308 Main Street Shop Centre in Waterloo and the telephone number is 315-539-9251. Building Strong and Vibrant New York CommunitiesCornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.

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