WOODBOURNE, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Infants eat lunch at the federally-funded Head Start school on September 20, 2012 in Woodbourne, New York. The school provides early education, nutrition and health services to 311 children from birth through age 5 from low-income families in Sullivan County, one of the poorest counties in the state of New York. The children receive 2/3 of their daily nutritional needs through meals, which include breakfast, lunch and snack, that are prepared at the school and served family-style in classrooms. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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Back to school lunch preparation to save time and money

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Back to school routines aren’t just for kids; parents must also get in the habit of alarms, rides, and packing lunches.

While children may be content with processed and sugary snacks, it’s up to moms and dads to keep lunches healthy.

Empty calories are a concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40 percent of the daily calories for children. About half of the empty calories come from soda, fruit drinks, dairy or grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.

Dr. Nimali Fernando is a Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project and co-wrote the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook”.

“School lunches may not seem significant in a child’s life, but when you add up that they are eating them five days per week it’s quite a lot of their calorie consumption,” said Dr. Fernando. “Teaching them healthy lunch habits from a young age will give them the tools to build lifelong healthy habits.”

Dr. Yum recommends steps for preparing healthy school lunches.

Meal planning: Get a head start on the week’s meals by planning during the weekend. You can save time on your shopping list if you’re well prepared.

Buy in bulk: Instead of expensive individually-packed snacks, opt for bulk purchases of items like dried fruit and trail mix.

Pack leftovers: If you cook extra food at dinner, you can put some aside for your child’s lunch the next day.

Cook or bake: Why buy muffins when you can bake a batch and save money? You also have more control over the ingredients. Additional items can be put in the freezer.

Skip the sugar: Sweet drinks are expensive and add extra sugar to your child’s meals. The CDC says sugary beverages account for 10 percent of the calories in children’s diets. You can always send them to school with a reusable container for water.

Change it up: Break free of the PB&J mold with an addition like bananas or whole wheat tortillas. 

Send a smoothie: You can get extra nutrition with frozen fruits and vegetables in smoothies. Keep frozen food on hand to blend. The smoothies can go back into the freezer until they’re ready to eat.

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