(StatePoint) Getting kids to eat healthy can be tricky, especially when you're not with them during school lunchtime.
A little creative planning and the right food choices can make healthy eating fun, giving kids the nutrition, energy and stamina they need to do well in school.
Get Kids Involved
Take children shopping for healthy foods they like. Let them choose favorite sandwich stuffers, vegetables, fruits and juice. Only buy healthy items, so kids can't be tempted by junk foods.
Each evening pack the next day's lunch together, letting kids choose their main dish, snacks and beverage.
Go Preservative Free
Avoid foods with lots of preservatives. What children drink is as important as what they eat. Send kids to school with water, low-fat milk or 100 percent real fruit juice in ready-to use cartons. Juice boxes are particularly healthy and convenient, because they don't need added preservatives to stay fresh and last up to 12 months without refrigeration.
Keep Things Fresh
When refrigeration isn't possible, keep food fresh and safe by selecting items with long shelf-lives, like crackers, peanut butter and juice. Or, try freezing a juice box the night before, to keep meat or cheese sandwiches fresh until lunchtime.
"Families should also consider the environment when packing lunches," says Carla Fantoni, vice president of communication for Tetra Pak US & Canada, a packaging solutions company. "Juice boxes, for example, are made mainly from paper, a renewable resource, are lightweight, compact and recyclable. They meet consumer needs for convenience, safety and ease of use with a low environmental impact."
Pack Balanced Meals
Instead of fretting over each meal, make sure kids eat a variety of foods -- such as protein, fats, carbs and fiber -- over a week's time. It's okay to pack chips with a cold cut sandwich, so long as they're having veggies and fruit juice the next day. And if they want the same sandwich daily, roll with it. Just change the topping and include a balanced side.
Have kids help create fun sandwiches or silly sides, such as "ants on a log" (raisins atop peanut butter on celery). Share foods and stories from your childhood. This year is particularly nostalgic for parents who were kids in the '80s, as it's the 30th birthday of the juice box, a staple of many childhood lunches.
For even more fun, get creative with your kids and make your own music video as part of a contest honoring the juice box birthday. Visit www.juiceboxbirthday.com to hear a new tune from The Juice Box Heroes and submit your family's original take on the song's music video. Prizes include $2,500, a year's supply of juice boxes and more. The contest runs from August 3 to October 31.
"With a little ingenuity you can help kids form good eating habits while having fun," says Candace Cameron Bure, mother of three and star of "Full House" and the current hit show, "Make it Or Break It," who is currently celebrating the juice box birthday with her family. "The juice box was a part of my childhood and with my family's busy lifestyle, I love giving my kids convenient and healthy treats I know and trust."
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