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Photos: Balance Nutrition and Taste, Reduce Food Waste!

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Children who eat nutritious foods do better in school, but coming up with healthy back-to-school lunch ideas that children will actually eat can be a challenge for many parents.

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A healthy school lunch, whether prepared at home or purchased from the school cafeteria, combines nutrient-rich foods from several food groups to supply protein, fat and carbohydrates to sustain energy and concentration for several hours. The key is to balance nutrition with your children's personal taste by getting them involved in the back-to-school lunch-preparation processes to reduce food waste.

"You can pack a nutritionally balanced lunch, but if your child doesn't eat it, it's going to waste," said Andrea Garen, M.A., R.D., and Project Manager with Dairy Council of California. "At home or at school, children who help select and prepare their meals are more likely to actually eat them. It's a simple and effective way to make sure your children get the energy they need to learn and the nutrition that keeps them healthy, while preventing food from going to waste."

Meals Matter,, is a free meal-planning and nutrition website that offers a number of back-to-school lunch ideas, meal-planning tools and tips to reduce food waste at lunchtime. Some simple tips include:

  • Plan meals and snacks a week in advance with your child's input.
  • Recycle leftovers by turning baked chicken into a soft taco or chicken salad.
  • Participate in the school lunch program in full or buy a la carte items like regular or flavored milk and fruit at school.
  • Break the sandwich rut. Pack pita pockets filled with fresh fruit and yogurt, whole-grain crackers and cheese or carrot and cucumber "chips" to dip in salsa, yogurt dressing or hummus.

Meals Matter offers other waste-reducing back-to-school lunch ideas, including:

  • Packing cloth napkins instead of paper towels.
  • Using forks and spoons provided at school.
  • Buying food and beverage items in larger quantities and using small, reusable containers packed in a lunch box, insulated bag or a backpack instead of a paper bag.

For more information,

Meals Matter is a non-commercial family nutrition and meal-planning website staffed by registered dietitians and sponsored by Dairy Council of California. Healthy Eating Made Easier(R).

SOURCE Dairy Council of California
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