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BOULDER, Colo. -- With the start of a new school year just weeks away, Wild Oats Markets, based here, is seeking to offer inspiration and information on lunchbox staples, to keep kids healthy and happy.
Topping the chain's list is a recommendation to avoid the early-morning panic that leads to poor last-minute lunchbox assembly, by thinking ahead and letting the kids in on the planning process of creating lunches. This will guarantee that they get lunches that they like, and provide an opportunity for "talk time" about proper nutrition and balancing food choices.
"Steer your children toward two or three tasty, healthy treats, and explain that a nutritious midday meal will give them the energy to finish the afternoon and be ready for after-school activities," said Janet Little, lead nutritionist for Wild Oats.
Little said the recently updated U.S. Dietary Guidelines provide an ideal platform to ensure the healthiest meals possible for children. The guidelines recommend that kids consume four to six servings of fruits and vegetables, at least three servings of whole grains, and two to three cups per day of fat-free, low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day. Additionally, the guidelines recommend keeping total fat intake between 25 to 35 percent of calories.
"It's easy to make progress toward the USDA daily recommendations essentials while still making lunchtime interesting for your child," said Little, noting that offering kids choices -- such as squeezable fruit yogurt, honey whole wheat pretzels, or whole grain crackers -- will ensure they get enough fresh fruits and veggies.
To make sure sandwiches, typically a lunchbox's main course, stack up nutritionally, Wild Oats reminds parents to opt for healthy, whole grain breads and choose a lean, natural deli turkey, ham, or roast beef over high-fat, preservative-laden cold cuts. For variety, she suggests whole wheat tortilla rollups or whole wheat pita pockets.
"Talk to your kids about foods you know they would like, and they may be willing to give something new a try," says Little. "Give them something familiar along with something new. The more variety they see in their lunchboxes, the more prone they'll be to discovering new and healthy foods."
Wild Oats, a nationwide chain of natural and organic foods markets in the United States and Canada, with annual sales of more than $1 billion, operates 111 natural foods stores in 24 states and British Columbia.