Healthy lunch how-to: A dietitian’s 5 staples

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI/WLNS) – Parents are getting used to the morning school routine again, and for many that includes packing a lunch.

The question is, how do you make the lunch healthy and something your kids want to eat?

To find the answer, our sister station WTHI visited Baesler’s Market in Terre Haute with Registered Dietitian Sarah James.

“It’s vital that we give them power packed lunches, research has shown that,” James said.

According to the CDC childhood obesity has more than quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

Health officials believe the key to lowering that number starts with a nutritious and diverse diet.

“You don’t have to have Pinterest-worthy lunches, but at least if you can get some sort of creativity going,” suggested James.

James said for starters make sure there’s a vegetable in your child’s lunchbox- one they like to eat.

Getting kids to eat their vegetables may be as simple as a good marketing strategy.

“Add lots of color, kids love color,” added James.

As for what to avoid: full-fat, non-baked chips, sugar-packed fruit snacks, processed, packaged desserts and frozen meals.

“In some pre-packaged meals, you are getting more than 30 grams of sugar, and more than 800 in sodium,” explained James.

Lack of nutrients and too much sugar can cause your child to lose focus, become jittery and then, have the inevitable sugar crash.

James said a common misconception is that children need juice.

She said liquid calories are often over consumed as adults.

“We also teach that to our kids, so water and milk is really the best choice for liquids,” she said.

That’s because most juice box options contain sugar and cornstarch.

Another piece of advice: avoid fruit snacks.

Even though they are often advertised as made with real fruit, they also contain a great deal of sugar.

“It’s better just to pack them a piece of fruit than to go with the fruit snacks,” said James.

James said a healthy meal contains a good protein, carbohydrates, veggies, fruit, and calcium.

“A nutritious meal will set them up for success in the future,” she added.

This story was originally published on

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