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 About one in five children in America have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For many, their condition could lead to a wide range of health challenges, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, low self-esteem and social isolation.

Parents and caregivers can make a life-changing difference by helping their child achieve and maintain a healthy weight. School lunches and after-school snacks are a great place to start. Use these tips to make healthy, budget-friendly menu choices that satisfy your child’s nutrition needs as well as their appetite.

 

Follow the Rainbow

Fruits and vegetables are great additions to a lunch box and a good choice for healthy snacks. They’re full of vitamins and minerals and low on calories and fat. As an added bonus, they don’t contain any added sodium or sugar.

Choose a variety of colors for maximum health benefits. Try slices of bright red or yellow peppers. Or vibrant green snow peas and orange baby carrots. Pair them with a nutritious dip to increase the fun factor and make them more appealing to your child.

 

Plan and Prep in Advance

The more you can get done in advance, the easier your week’s food prep becomes. Choose a day—typically Saturday or Sunday—to plan your week’s lunch and snack choices. Prepare as much as possible in advance to save time and effort as the week progresses. Go to the grocery store. Pre-wash your produce. Batch cook chicken breasts to have on hand for salads or grain bowls. Setting yourself up for success helps make it possible to achieve—even when your carefully planned schedule goes sideways.

 

Involve Your Children 

Getting children involved often increases the likelihood they’ll eat the nutritious lunches and snacks you’re providing. It also helps establish good habits and necessary life skills. Look for age-appropriate tasks for your child to assist with planning, preparing and packing their selections. Let them make as many healthy menu choices as possible to keep the experience positive.

 

Think Outside of the Lunch Box 

Healthy doesn’t have to equal boring. Use cookie cutters to cut meat and cheese into fun shapes. Make a parfait with low-fat yogurt, granola and fruit. Substitute white bread with whole grain wraps and pita bread for portable, tasty and nutritious sandwiches. Look beyond your traditional snack and lunch choices to add variety and fun that doesn’t add pounds.

 

Explore pediatric services at Catholic Health. Call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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