Smart lunch selections supply a range of nutrients for growth and development while avoiding those that contribute to a host of ills including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – all on the upsurge in younger and younger age groups.
Here are some of the worst lunchbox offenders. Steer clear of these picks.
Three mini-weiners with three mini-buns (refined flour) along with mustard, ketchup, a milkshake and potato chips are examples of what you can find in these high-sugar and/or high-sodium "meal kids" containing processed meat. Sodium counts can climb to almost a staggering 1000 milligrams. As well, more and more research is pointing to the potential adverse effects of processed meat over time. It’s linked to an increased risk of diabetes and colon cancer.Photo by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr
The better option would be a reusable bento box containing a selection of foods from at least three out of four food groups.Photo by Wendy Copley/Flickr
If your youngster’s school is nut-free, then you don’t have to worry about banning these chocolate-nuts spreads as a lunchtime entrée. Many contain minimal amounts of protein and instead offer more sugar and fat than anything else.Photo by Alexis Lamster/Flickr
The better option would be cubes of cheese, a few ounces of leftover chicken or even a hard-boiled egg along with whole-grain crackers or pitas.Photo by Chris Luczkow/Flickr
While the makers of some fruit drinks may now tout that their beverages contain less sugar than the previous versions or are packed with vitamin C, these beverages offers very little real juice — not that kids need juice in any case.Photo by Tim Baker/Flickr
Even for kids, the better option is low-fat milk or water.Photo by MMarsolais/Flickr
Dried fruit is popular among kids as it definitely tastes like a sweet treat. But avoid those where the ingredient list reveals much more than fruit. If the first ingredient is sugar, skip it.Photo by penguincakes/Flickr
Plain dried fruit such as dried apricots and apples or fruit leather with no added sugar are the more sensible solutions.Photo by Thomas Mueller/Flickr
When you think of granola bars, you’re not alone if you picture wholesome oats. But when you read the ingredient list on certain offerings, while you may spy oats on the label, in some cases they’re way down — even after items like hydrogenated vegetable oil.Photo by Sarah R/Flickr
Always choose granola bars with oats at the top of the ingredient list. You can even make your own, to ensure you know what your child is eating.Photo by Sifu Renka/Flickr
Some snack mixes tout that they’re baked or free of trans fat, but when you check out the nutrition facts box, you may be in for a surprise. While they may contain healthy fats, they may also supply more than half a child’s sodium requirement in just one serving.Photo by nathanmac87/Flickr
The better option is homemade whole-grain cereal snack mix, whole grain pretzels or air- or oil-popped popcorn for older kids (as it’s a choking hazard for young children).Photo by Werner Moser/Flickr
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