EXTENSION NEWS: The ABCs for a healthy lunch | Columns

As kids and teachers head back to school, don’t forget to plan healthy lunches. A healthy future for out kids begins with a healthy lifestyle including nutritious meals including lunch, physical activity, and adequate sleep.

According to the American Heart Association, 91 percent of our youth have a poor diet. Diets usually include too much salt, sugar, and fat. These are ingredients that can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes when they become older.

Lunch is an important time for kids to refuel their body to help fuel their minds for success in the classroom and after school activities. School meals can be the best choice as they are nutritious and provide the nutrients you children need to learn. However there are days you may want a packed lunch or snack for your children. However, it may be difficult to pack a healthy meal that appeals to kids.

Here are some tips that are about as easy as saying your ABCs.

• Lunch box safety. It is fun to have a cool bag or box. Make sure it is insulated and can keep food safe. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Plan to include all the food groups from MyPlate, including:

• Vegetables – Add to a sandwich such as bell peppers, cucumbers, or dark leafy vegetables. Include carrots and celery with a bean or ranch dip.

• Fruit- Alternate choices by the seasons in addition to apples and bananas, and include other yummy fruits such as a strawberries, grapes and watermelon. Pack extra for an after-school snack.

• Protein – Include lean protein such as turkey and chicken, hard boiled eggs or tuna. Other options include beans and nut butters.

• Grains – Choose whole grains such as whole grain tortillas, rice or pasta. Use caution with cereal bars that can have a lot of sugar.

• Dairy – If your child takes a lunch, include money for milk. Also cheese and yogurt are good choices for including in your lunch.

Watch out for added sugars. They can come from cereal bars, sugary drinks and jelly products. Check the Nutrition Facts label to identify the sugar content and choose foods with less sugar or no added sugar.

Roasted Beets Hummus


1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained – reserving liquid

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Paprika, olive oil and parsley for garnish


Combine all ingredients except garnish in a mini food processor and begin to process on ‘puree’ setting.

Add reserved chickpea liquid (~1-2 tbsp.) to make a smooth puree.

Best served if chilled for 1-2 hours.

Black Bean Quesadilla


2 flour tortillas, whole wheat

1/3 cup shredded cheese, such as Mexican style four cheese blend (with part skim mozzarella)

½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed with water


Place one tortilla on skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and then beans, distributing evening. Add second tortilla. Allow to warm for 1-2 minutes until lightly brown and crispy.

Using a large flip spatula, flip and allow to warm for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Slice into quarters.

Serve with avocado, salsa, and/or a fresh side salad.

Source: MyPlate www.choosemyplate.gov

Kids Eat Right by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics www.eatright.org/kids

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.


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