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Take the guess work out of lunch

August 26, 2019
Amanda Bohlen , MOV Parent

The new school year can bring some very stressful times when it comes to packing lunches and after school snacks. We want to make sure our kids are getting the best nutrition possible. One thing I like to do is stop at the dollar store and pick up some inexpensive baskets. I buy five baskets, one for each food group. I then fill the baskets with food my children like to eat. When it's time to pack lunch for the next day your child can pick an item out of each basket. This way you know they are getting items from each of the different food groups and they have a healthy balanced meal. When it comes time for an afterschool snack let them pick out of 2 or 3 baskets. They are getting a balanced snack in a smaller size as to not spoil their next meal. This allows the child to feel they have a say in what they get to eat and it gives them a little control. They nice part about the baskets is that it takes all the questioning out about what to pack. Depending on the temperament of your child you may want a lot of a few choices. It may also be in your child's best interest to help pick what goes in the baskets but then you, as the parent, pick what goes in the lunch every day. Below is a list of some items you can put in your baskets. Please make sure to tailor to your child's tastes. Fruit can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried served whole, sliced, cut in half or cubed. Try to serve whole and cut-up fruits as they have more fiber and less sugar than their juice counterparts. If buying canned fruit, make sure the item is pack in juice or water.


Apple slices

Mini banana

Sliced grapes


Mandarin oranges






Make sure to have a variety of different color vegetables for your child to pick from. The variety gives your child the nutrients and fiber they need for good health. Different colors provide different nutrients so try and aim for a rainbow approach when picking colorful vegetables.


Baby carrots



Pepper strips


Cherry tomatoes



Try to provide mostly whole grains rather than refined grains. Whole grains give your child B vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help them feel fuller longer so they stay alert to concentrate at school.








The below protein items provide many nutrients including protein and iron. Cheese, tofu and yogurt can count as a meat alternative.





Roast beef

Peanut butter


Dairy items should be low-fat or fat free items. Children need the calcium, protein, and vitamin D found in milk for strong bones, teeth and muscles.


White or chocolate milk


Cheese slices or sticks

Sour cream based dip

My recipe for this column is an easy addition to your lunch or snack recipe. You can find the recipe on Celebrate Your Plate website. The recipe is great for getting kids in the kitchen, as it only requires a few ingredients and equipment. I've used the canned tropical fruit and pulsed it in my food processor.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips


For the fruit salsa: 4 cups fresh or canned fruit, diced (2 small apples, 1 15 ounce can sliced peaches in water or juice, drained, and 8 ounces fresh strawberries) 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the cinnamon sugar chips: 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 6 6-inch whole wheat tortillas, Non-stick cooking spray

Instructions 1. Before you begin, wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, produce, and tops of cans. 2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 3. While the oven is preheating, combine diced fruit with lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until serving time. 4. Stack tortillas on a cutting board, cut stack in half, and cut each half into three wedges to make a total of 36 pieces. 5. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. 6. Spray front and back of several tortilla wedges with non-stick cooking spray. Press wedges one at a time into cinnamon sugar mixture before the spray dries. Arrange wedges on prepared pan(s) a single layer. 7. When baking sheet(s) is full, bake 8-10 minutes, turning once halfway through baking time. If only using one baking sheet, bake second batch. 8. Cool chips and serve with fruit salsa.

Amanda Bohlen is the new family and consumer science educator for The Ohio State University Extension in Washington County. She received her bachelor's in family and consumer science education from Ohio University and her master's in curriculum and instruction from Ohio Valley University. For the last seven years she has been in the classroom teaching high school students' financial education, child development, nutrition and culinary skills.



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