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What's for school lunch?

When you pack your own school lunch (or work lunch), those prepackaged lunches with crackers, cheese and meat are just so convenient and so appealing. But are they nutritious? Are they a good buy? For that matter, are they really easy for your child to take to school?

No, no and no, says a University of Georgia nutritionist.

"They're pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to lunch foods for school children," said Connie Crawley, a UGA Cooperative Extension food, nutrition and health specialist after a review of products.

Nutritious? Not really. They're very high in sodium (salt), low in fiber and very high in fats. In fact, some contain half the daily value for saturated fats - too much to be feeding a child, Crawley said. Most are low in calcium, an important nutrient for growing children.

Also on the negative side: Prepackaged lunches don't have vegetables or fruit. The drinks are mostly sugary instead of fruit juice. They're highly processed. Most need to be kept cold and won't fit easily into any insulated lunch bag. And they're not cheap.

What's a parent to do?

  • Establish good eating habits at home.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer salty foods.
  • Pack your child's lunch with raw veggies such as carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes. Include an apple or banana.
  • If you use an insulated lunch bag, include nonfat or low-fat milk. Or have your child buy milk at school.
  • Use leftovers in school lunches.
  • Kids like basic foods such as a cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly or a bagel with cheese.

Used with permission from www.health-eheadlines.com, © 2007, Write On, Inc.

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