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Henderson Schools Guide: Back to school means back to lunches

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Back to school means back to sandwiches and boring lunches....or not! If you have the space and time to be a bit imaginative, you can give your children the opportunity to select their own lunch items, making sure that they will have the nutrition they need and maybe just a little bit of fun stuff to eat as well.

Everyone knows about nut allergies and about school lunch restrictions. It's difficult to stop children from swapping their lunches if the schools don't have a lunch program, as most schools in Clark Country have established. To keep your children safe and give them the energy and focus they need to excel, this wonderful tip from Pinterest is sure to revitalize lunchtime and give your children ownership and the choice they desire.

All food groups should be covered in lunches and snacks. The easiest way to allow children to choose their preferences is to set up a labeled "bin" system as shown in the photo. Just keep adding variety and favorites when the stock gets low and your children will get used to making the right nutritious choices. Label the bin with a "1" or "2" to show children how many to choose for their day. I adjusted the selections from the photo to give children more fruit and veggies and not just fillers and carbs. Don't forget to adjust the allowed selections according to age of the children.

Bin 1: This bin should have a bread alternative. The bin could hold a bagged fresh-baked muffin, a dinner roll, a cheese bun, a piece of flatbread, Naan bread, a tortilla, multigrain bread, rye bread, cinnamon raisin bread or another favorite. Label with a "1" for one selection from this bin.

Bin 2: This choice allows children to choose bagged healthy snack items such as popcorn, multigrain crackers, Quaker Pops or other healthy filler snacks such as non-sweetened cereals. This is a "1" item box.

Bin 3: This is the cracker bin, where children can choose their own Ziploc bag of Goldfish crackers, pretzels, small plain crackers like Wheat Thins, Ritz Crackers or other favorites. This is a "1" item bin.

Bin 4: This is the fun snack box with items such as prepacked Fruit Snacks, Froot by the Foot, dried fruit snacks, Teddy Grahams, 100 calorie cookies, gummy and other snacks and more of your children's favorites. "1" choice here,

Bin 5: This bin holds prepacked little commercial cups of applesauce, fruit, prepacked apples slices, grapes (for children over 3 years of age) and other favorite healthy alternatives. Children should also be able to choose a fresh fruit item such as a banana or apple as well. "1" choice from this box.

Bin 6: Yogurt tubes or cups, cheese strings or packs, Baby Bel or CowPals and other cheesy goodness are in this bin. Allow "2" selection to give a protein and milk alternative choice.

Bin 7: This bin should hold pickles, prepacked veggies with dip or other crunchy favorites like sliced cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, etc. They provide color and healthy choices with allowing "1" selection (or even "2" for older kids).

Bin 8: This bin is for meat and meat alternatives. This could mean prepacked sliced Hot Rods or jerky, luncheon meat, chicken breast, cooked sliced hot dogs for children over the age of 3 years, or any other choice that you know your child would eat. They should have the choice of "2" selections from this bin.

Don't forget healthy drink alternatives such as a small carton of milk, bottled water or juice if your school doesn't provide this for lunches. Make lunchtime more interesting and see how empty the lunch box is when your child arrives home! In winter you may want to add a thermos of soup or stew occasionally. Ask what worked and what didn't and adjust bins accordingly to change them up to keep it fresh and appealing. It's also a great way to make your work lunches interesting, too!

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