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Ways to pep up lunch

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A new school year is upon us. One of the most challenging daily tasks that goes with back to school is finding something interesting, healthy and tasty for your child to eat if they take their lunch instead of participating in a school lunch program. Here are some tips to simplify the process.
Planning is essential to the success of packing a healthy lunch. It allows you to prepare well-balanced meals and reduces the amount of rushing to find something to take in the morning. It can also help you make your grocery list so you don’t have the added expenses of purchasing items you already have or foods your child won’t eat. Encourage your child to be involved in the planning phase. Children are more likely to eat foods that they had an active part planning or preparing.
Think of ways you can mix up traditional lunch items. Most people like a peanut butter sandwich or a sandwich with deli meat, but eating that every single day can get old.  Substitute pita bread or a tortilla for regular bread, using whole grains when possible. If your child eats peanut butter and jelly, swap out the jelly flavors. Cookie cutters are a great way to turn sandwiches, meats and cheeses into fun shapes.
Lunch is a great time for you to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Dress up sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles. Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place them in individual containers. Include some type of dip. Some great options are hummus, yogurt dip, peanut butter, low-fat dressing or salsa. If your child is a picky eater, you may have some luck sneaking some nutrition into a muffin. Below is a Plate It Up, Kentucky Proud recipe for Pumpkin Apple Muffins.
Remember snacks should be simple, reasonable portions, healthy and desirable for your child. Good options include graham crackers, trail mix, low-fat granola bars, air-popped popcorn, 100-calorie packs or a fun-size candy bar.
For more recipes and information on healthy eating, contact the Trimble County Extension Office.
Pumpkin Apple Muffins
Ingredients
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1¼ cups honey
2 large eggs
1½ cups fresh pureed pumpkin
½ cup canola oil
2 cups Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
Yield:
18 muffins
Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices. In a small bowl, combine honey, eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups, two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Note: Can substitute two cups granulated sugar for honey, decrease baking soda by ¼ teaspoon and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
 
Nutritional Analysis:
200 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein
Article Source: Janet Mullins, UK Extension Professor
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.