Back-to-School 2023: Inside the lunch box

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Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 9:04 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Healthy Kids Cooking Camp is an annual event.

Kiara Cook is the youth health coordinator for the program. The camp teaches kids as young as seven years old how to prepare healthy and tasty meals. Cook says it is important to teach the students these healthy habits now so they can carry them into adulthood.

“We’ve made trail mix, we have made breakfast banana splits, we made grilled chicken wraps, and were making fruit smoothies on Friday. Tomorrow we are making veggie and chicken quesadillas, we’ve also made parfaits so we are teaching them that you can get fun and creative in the kitchen and also keep it very kid friendly and healthy,” Kiara Cook said.

If you are able to pack your student’s lunch at home experts say do what you can to make sure the meal is balanced and using a bento box can be a fun way to incorporate the different food groups.

“We’ve got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that is cut in half put in a compartment, then we have got a crunchy element , some almonds. We’ve got a fruit component and maybe a little treat Hershey kisses or something like that,” Chloe Paddison-Eddleman said.

Chloe Paddison-Eddleman is a registered dietitian with St. Joseph’s-Candler. She says when it comes to packing lunch on a budget, it is more about what you’re eating rather than the cost.

“To your body, when it comes to processing those food groups it doesn’t care if it is a microwave option or a fresh from Whole Foods option. It doesn’t matter your body is going to derive nutrients no matter what form the food is in. In the beginning, that helps from a budgetary standpoint because they can get more inexpensive foods as long as it is still a protein and still a carbohydrate source,” Paddison-Eddleman said.

If you have a picky eater, maybe try allowing them to be in more control of what they eat for lunch.

“If the kids have some ownership of what’s being packed they are more likely to finish the balanced options. That can absolutely play into dinner if they are not adequately fueled, which can also lead into nighttime snacking as well,” Paddison-Eddleman said.

Paddison-Eddleman says that when it comes preparing healthy meals on the go, you could start breakfast with a Greek yogurt and some fruit.

“For lunch, I really like that interactive build your own lunch idea we got the tortilla the ham the cheese maybe some lettuce and tomato, maybe some hummus to spread in there for some extra healthy fats and fiber from the chickpeas. I’m a big fan of offering the kids a snack on the way home from school. Or having a snack packed that they could eat on the way home from school or having a snacked packed that way they can eat it on the bus or again on the way home from school it is going to take the edge off of any appetite they may have leading into the dinner meal,” Paddison-Eddleman said.

And then for dinner you may want to try the plate method, Paddison-Eddleman recommends a quarter of the plate for protein a quarter of the plate for starch maybe some potatoes or quick rice then half the plate for vegetables.

“Most kids, they are willing to do green beans, steamed broccoli even if we have to put a little cheese on top so that plate method for dinner really helps with portion management and really emphasizing a balanced meal,” Paddison-Eddleman said.

“They can understand the importance of what you put into your body affects how your body operates, affects how you think how you feel how you look,” Cook added.

The Healthy Kids Cooking Camp has been ongoing for more than 20 years. You can find more information on how to sign your kids up for next year, this coming spring.