From: ENN
Published July 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Wild Oats Offers Tips for Making Nutritious, Natural School Lunches

BOULDER, Colorado — In just a few short weeks, a new school year will begin and this means it's time once again to start planning healthy, good-tasting and portable lunches. The experts at Wild Oats Markets offer inspiration and information on the lunchbox staples that are designed to keep kids healthy and happy.


Avoid the early morning panic that leads to poor last minute lunchbox assembly by thinking ahead and letting the kids in on the planning process of creating lunches. This will guarantee that they get lunches that they like and provide an opportunity for "talk time" about proper nutrition and balancing food choices.


"Steer your children toward two or three tasty, healthy treats, and explain that a nutritious midday meal will give them the energy to finish the afternoon and be ready for after-school activities," said Janet Little, lead nutritionist for Wild Oats Markets.


The recently updated U.S. Dietary Guidelines are a great place to start while ensuring you plan the healthiest meals possible for your child. The guidelines recommend children consume 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables, at least 3 servings of whole grains, and 2-3 cups per day of fat-free, low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day. Additionally, the guidelines recommend keeping total fat intake between 25 to 35 percent of calories.


"It's easy to make progress toward the USDA daily recommendations essentials, while still making lunchtime interesting for your child," said Little. "Offer them choices like organic, squeezable fruit yogurt, low-fat snacks like honey whole wheat pretzels or whole grain crackers. To make sure they get enough fresh fruits and veggies, cut them into bite-size pieces and pack them along with a healthy dipping sauce."


Make sure your child's sandwich, typically a lunchbox's main course, stacks-up nutritionally. In addition to opting for healthy, whole grain breads, choose a lean, natural deli turkey, ham or roast beef over high-fat, preservative laden cold cuts. For variety, make whole wheat tortilla roll-ups or whole wheat pita pockets.


"Talk to your kids about foods you know they would like and they may be willing to give something new a try," encourages Little. "Give them something familiar along with something new. The more variety they see in their lunchboxes, the more prone they'll be to discovering new and healthy foods."


It's estimated that at least 1 in 25 children suffers from a food allergy of some type - peanut allergies being chief among them. Even if your child doesn't suffer from food allergies, chances are, a child in their classroom does. In some cases, a severe allergic reaction can be triggered just by being around others who are eating foods with allergens such as peanuts. Because of this, consider packing an allergen-free lunchbox for your child. This also makes it easy for children to safely share snacks across the lunchroom table.


For the classic PB&J sandwich, try converting to alternative nut butters, such as almond or sunflower seed butters. Many snack bars and cookies are also easily exchanged for allergen-free alternatives. Read food labels closely - foods that don't contain peanuts or other allergens are often processed in the same facilities as those that do, so cross-contamination is possible. It's best to select items that are specifically made in a dedicated facility.


Remember to practice good food safety when packing lunches, keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Use insulated lunch bag with a reusable ice pack, or better yet, pack an eight-ounce water bottle partially frozen or frozen juice box. These beverages will act like an ice pack, but becomes a slushy drink later in the day. Frozen portable yogurt tubes also make delicious edible ice packs or a great ice cream-like after-school snack.


About Wild Oats: Wild Oats Markets, Inc. is a nationwide chain of natural and organic foods markets in the U.S. and Canada with annual sales of more than $1 billion. The Company operates 111 natural foods stores in 24 states and British Columbia, Canada. The Company's markets include: Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Henry's Farmers Market, Sun Harvest and Capers Community Markets. For more information, please visit www.wildoats.com.


Source: Business Wire, Wild Oats Markets


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