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School Lunch Choices Now May Make For Healthier Adults

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Packing your child’s school lunch can be quick and easy with all the pre-packaged food options, but what are they doing to your child’s health?

Nutritionists say that how you pack your child’s lunch could impact how healthy they are when they grow up.

Tom Ruppert understands that, and he and his three boys have made shopping for food and packing a lunch a habit.

“Generally we think the lunch we take from home is healthier,” he said.

For Ruppert’s school-aged sons — Matthew, Jack, and Timmy — PB&J sandwiches are the usual.

“Peanut butter jelly sandwich, maybe some fruit and a juice box,” said one of the boys.

Nutritionist Jamie Stang, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, said a basic rule of thumb, follow the USDA food plate.

“What you send in the lunch box really does set up what they’re gonna take for lunch later in life,” said Stang. “It should be half fruits and vegetables, the other half should be meat and carbohydrates.”

Stang said there are a few easy ways to help your kids get more nutrients.

Her advice — use whole grain or whole wheat bread or crackers, add nuts as a snack, send whole fruit instead of fruit snacks or applesauce.

The foods to stay away from are any pre-packaged snacks and lunch kits.

Stang said they’re high in sodium and low in nutrients.

If your kids like fruit flavored yogurt — like Gogurt — Stang warns it’s high in sugar. She suggests swapping it with Greek yogurt and honey.

Stang said a well-balanced meal helps with energy and concentration.

“They’re less likely to feel that mid-afternoon slump,” she said, adding that a lunch with fiber and protein will help regulate blood sugar levels and avoid the crash.

Ruppert said he and his boys have room for improvement, but they’re on the right track.

“We do some fruits and veggies, not as much as we should,” said Ruppert. “(But) we keep away from sugary foods and candy and anything like that.”

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