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Home-packed lunches your kids will eat

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Kids want a tasty meal that can be eaten quickly. Parents want a meal that can be made quickly, but isn't full of empty calories.

Three experts — food consultant Ellen Briggs, Madelyn Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center, and Debra Gill of St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. — offer their suggestions for 10 balanced lunches. These meals have an emphasis on protein for muscle energy, complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, essential fatty acids, and fiber.

Most can be prepared the night before.


Whole-grain, trans fat-free crackers

Low-fat white cheese slices or mozzarella sticks (such as Cabot or Organic Valley)

Baby carrots

Cereal bar (such as Health Valley Fruit Cobbler)

Bottle of spring water or vitamin water


Peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread (use peanut butter with just peanuts and a little salt)

Apple, whole or sliced (preserved in lemon juice and wrapped in a paper towel to prevent discoloration)

Celery sticks

One box of raisins

Packaged graham cracker sticks

Jello pudding pack


Half a piece of pita bread, opened

Canola mayonnaise (spread inside pita bread)

Slice of additive-free chicken or turkey

Lettuce leaves (dark green)

Paprika (sprinkle on poultry slices)

Apple (yellow or red delicious)

Vanilla enriched rice milk (lunch box size)


Whole-grain tortilla

Spread (such as canola or Earth's Best) on one side of tortilla

Last night's leftovers (placed on half of tortilla and rolled up)

Dried fruit (fruit leather or combination of dried cranberries, raisins and bananas)

Bottle of spring water or vitamin water


Whole-wheat wrap (spread with peanut or soy-“nut” butter and sliced bananas or sugar-free preserves)

Small bowl of berries and/or sliced melon (with colored toothpicks for fun)

Celery sticks and baby carrots (or pickles if child prefers)

Small container of skim milk

Lollypop, Tootsie pop or two sucking candies, such as Nips, butterscotch or Cream Savors


Low-fat, whole-grain crackers

Reduced fat cheese stick

Sliced red peppers and baby carrots

Low-fat packaged milk (such as Horizon Organic)



Pre-packaged South Beach meal wrap

Low-fat yogurt (such as Stonyfield or Brown Cow)

Nut snacks (almonds or sesame seeds) or trail mix

6 ounces of 100 percent juice (such as Apple & Eve)


Chicken or turkey and lettuce pita sandwich

Red delicious or yellow apple

Cereal bar

Vanilla enriched rice milk

100 calorie package mini-Oreos


Whole-wheat tortilla

2 slices low-fat bologna or soy-based meat

Reduced-fat cheese stick or shredded cheese

Fruit cup (packed in fruit juice with no added sugars)

Animal crackers


Slice of leftover plain or veggie pizza

100 percent fruit sauce (apple, apricot or fruit mix)

Frozen low-fat yogurt (will thaw by lunchtime)

Unsweetened fruit water or vitamin water

Cookies (such as Newman-O's, Barbara's Snackimals, or Joseph's Sugar-Free)