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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2008

Expert Tips for Avoiding School Lunch Box Battles

(ARA) - She's not leaving the house in that skirt. He's not playing on the football team if his grade average drops below a C. And no one, but no one, is going to have potato chips or chocolate cupcakes for lunch.

No matter how harmonious your relationship with your kids may be, packing their lunches can be a battle. You can avoid the conflict, however, by serving foods that satisfy kids' craving for yummy and parent's desire for healthy.

"Parents want to provide healthy meals and snack options for their children, and school lunch boxes are a great place to start," says Dr. Julie Jones, a licensed nutritionist and national nutritional advisor who works with California Raisins. "Whether you challenge kids to eat all the colors of the rainbow in fruits and veggies, or prepare an old favorite with a new twist, such as apple slices or mini-bagels with California Raisin Peanut Butter Spread, eating healthy can be fun and delicious."

To avoid the lunch box blahs, California Raisins -- with the help of Jones and registered dietitian/nutrition expert, Mary Lee Chin -- have compiled a list of tips for ensuring kids' stomachs stay full and lunch boxes come home empty.

* Avoid bread boredom. Think variety when "sandwiching" your school lunches. Instead of plain, white bread, try whole grain raisin bread, pita bread, whole wheat tortillas for wraps, whole grain rolls, mini-bagels or flavored bagels.

* Remember, eating is visual too. A soggy peanut butter sandwich with grape jelly soaking through is not very visually appealing. Kids often find pre-packaged items that travel well and maintain their good looks more enticing. Try single-serve applesauce or other canned fruits, string cheese, snack-sized California raisins or a carton of yogurt.

* Introduce new foods with a health serving of fun. Talk frankly with your kids about the variety of healthful foods they have to choose from, and on the first try serve smaller portions. For example, introduce hummus with pretzels or celery sticks to dip.

* Encourage kids to be involved in preparation and selection of new, healthful foods. For younger kids, it is fun to create a fruit and vegetable bingo board. If your child packs and eats a particular fruit and vegetable, he or she can put a sticker on the bingo board. Once "bingo" is achieved, the child receives an agreed-upon prize, such as a walk to the park, a favorite game, or a special activity with a parent.

* Presentation is important. Kids will be more likely to eat healthy foods if they're presented in a fun way. Make a kabob of fruit and cheese using a thin straw. Create a unique roll-up of cheese, lunch meat and a whole grain tortilla wrapped around a pickle. Don't forget a dash of color, too. Incorporate nutritious, colorful sprinkles into lunch, like cherry tomatoes, golden California raisins, or diced red and green peppers. Or try a colorful tortilla for an exciting wrap.

* Pack lunch for the whole family. If you take your own food to school or work, it's much more likely that you'll eat well. Take just 10 minutes after dinner with the family to pack lunches for the next day.

* Keep current. Periodically reassess what your kids are eating because tastes and interests change. If you have served a "like" for three weeks in a row, and it starts coming back home, it's time to have another healthy food planning session.

* Don't underestimate the role snacks play in your child's day-to-day success. Healthful snacks can provide kids with the fuel and nutrition they need to get through their busy days.

"Smart snacking is another major factor in overall healthy eating," Jones says. "Snacks can be a way to help children get in the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day."

Try these three fun recipes to incorporate healthful California raisins into students' lunchboxes this school season.

Pumpkin Pie Popcorn Mix with Raisins

Preparation time: Five minutes

Cooking time: Two to five minutes

Ingredients:

1 bag low-fat microwave popcorn

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 cup California Raisins

1 package (5 ounces) glazed pecans

Butter-flavored non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

Microwave popcorn according to package directions and empty into a large bowl. Remove all unpopped kernels. Stir sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a small bowl. Spray popcorn liberally with cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Add raisins and pecans. Sprinkle with sugar and spice mixture and toss until popcorn is well coated.

Yields: 12 one-cup servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories 160 (40 percent from fat); Total Fat 8g (sat 1g, trans 0g, mono 4g, poly 2g); Cholesterol 0mg; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 24g; Fiber 2g; Iron 1mg; Sodium 65mg; Calcium 12mg.

California Raisin Peanut Butter Spread

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup California Raisins

1/2 cup apple juice

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup creamy peanut butter

Directions:

Measure the raisins and apple juice into a small saucepan and bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for eight to 10 minutes or until raisins have absorbed all the juice. Stir in honey and cinnamon. Cool slightly. Stir in peanut butter. Spread onto graham crackers, bread, mini-bagels, apple slices or celery sticks.

For a healthful variation on traditional PB&J sandwiches, spread one tablespoon of California Raisin Peanut Butter Spread on one slice of whole wheat bread. Top with 1/4 banana cut into nine very thin slices and top with another slice of bread. Lightly butter both sides and cook in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned on both sides and heated through. Cut into four sticks.

Spread recipe yields 1 2/3 cups.

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories 80 (53 percent from fat); Total Fat 5g (sat 1g, trans 0g, mono 2g, poly 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Protein 3g; Carbohydrate 7g; Fiber <1g; Iron <1mg; Sodium 0mg; Calcium 8mg.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Muffins

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12 to 14 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup quick oats

1/2 cup California Raisins

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg white

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F and spray 18 mini-muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

Stir together raisins and all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine and stir remaining ingredients all together in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until incorporated. Divide and spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Yields 18 mini-muffins, serves six.

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories 210 (23 percent from fat); Total Fat 6g (sat 0.5g, trans 0g, mono 3g, poly 2g); Cholesterol 0mg; Protein 4g; Carbohydrate 38g; Fiber 2g; Iron 5mg; Sodium 150mg; Calcium 52mg.

Courtesy of ARAcontent



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