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Florida Parents: What's In Your Kid's Lunchbox?

PHOTO: Nutritionists recommend including some combination of two fruits and two vegetables in a child's lunchbox, and having them help with the selection and lunch-packing process. Photo courtesy of HealthyChild.org.
PHOTO: Nutritionists recommend including some combination of two fruits and two vegetables in a child's lunchbox, and having them help with the selection and lunch-packing process. Photo courtesy of HealthyChild.org.
July 29, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The start of the school year is just weeks away, and while there's no shortage of the latest backpacks and school supply displays at big box department stores, nutrition experts are reminding parents of the importance of what goes into their child's lunchbox.

Nutritionist Dr. Keith Kantor says packing a healthy lunch starts with what you give your child to drink.

"One thing we all overlook is what children drink," says Kantor. "Most parents give kids something like a Juicy Juice, and they're empty calories because it's sugar or they have artificial sweeteners in there, which aren't good for you."

Kantor recommends making your own flavored water by crushing berries or mint in a pitcher. Homemade flavored water is a healthier and cheaper alternative, and is a project kids can help with. He says it's important to include some combination of at least two fruits and two vegetables, some lean protein, and a healthy fat as a part of a child's lunch.

According to Kantor, pre-packing and planning the night before will help parents avoid falling into the habit of grabbing processed, low-nutrient foods for children's lunches. Kantor also says getting kids "invested" in what's in their lunchbox is crucial.

"If you have the kids help you while you're packing their lunch, they're engaged," says Kantor. "They take ownership of it. They're not throwing away their lunch you made for them, or trading with somebody that has something unhealthy."

A 2013 study by Baylor College of Medicine found home-packed lunches were less likely to include fruit, vegetables and dairy-based foods than lunches purchased at school. Experts also advise parents to make lunch portion sizes appropriate for the child's age and dietary needs.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL