SOURCE: Time to Eat!

August 07, 2006 05:30 ET

It's Back to School Season, What Are Your Kids Having for Lunch?

WESTPORT, CT -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 7, 2006 -- The new school year is here; have you already run out of ideas for your child's lunch box? It's not as difficult as you may think; it just takes a little planning and creativity from Nicole Straight of Time to Eat!

The best way to ensure your children have access to good food choices is to make them readily available. "As a busy mother of two and chef, I understand the stresses of our daily lives," says Nicole. The kids are hungry, you're trying to think of anything to give them NOW, but the fastest option is not always the best choice. By taking a little time and involving your children in the process, this can become a weekly ritual that you and your kids can enjoy together, even if you don't like to cook.

Here are some tips to help stock your home with healthy and satisfying foods.

--  Buy precut fruits and vegetables at the supermarket, and store them in
    little containers so kids can grab and go! Keep these little fresh snacks
    on the bottom produce shelf, so kids always know where to find them.
--  Measure 1/2 C. servings of pretzels, rice cakes or Chex cereal, and
    keep them in snack-size baggies. Store them in an open basket or bowl that
    is easily accessible to children.
--  Instead of sandwiches for lunch, think outside the bread. Roll up
    slices of turkey, ham or roast beef, and skewer it with a tiny pretzel
--  A favorite in our house is always oyster crackers and a little dipping
    cup of peanut butter or cream cheese. My kids love to assemble the little
    cracker sandwiches.
--  Try edamame. These are soybeans that are fun to eat, very healthy and
    a snap to make. Simply boil a bag of edamame for 5-6 minutes, drain and
    sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt or a drizzle of soy sauce. We always keep a
    bowl of these in the refrigerator as a handy snack. They are perfect for
    packing in the lunchbox.
Children are creatures of habit, and can be resistant to change. Here are some suggestions to help with new foods:
--  Try introducing one new food in their lunchbox and see if it comes
--  Don't give up if they don't eat it the first time, nutritionists tell
    us it sometimes takes 12-14 times before a child might try a new food.
--  Remember who's really in charge, if your child refuses the new food,
    don't get into a power struggle, simply say, "ok, maybe you'll try it
    later." But don't make them something else.
--  Introduce a new food at the beginning of the meal when your child is
    most hungry.
--  Juice is full of empty calories; try to avoid it as much as possible.
    If your child fills up on juice, chances are they won't be inclined to try
    a new food.
--  Keep lots of prepared snacks readily available where your child can
    access them. A few minutes of prep work goes a long way throughout the week
    and makes lunch preparation easier if things are already prebagged or
    stored in little containers.
We are all strapped for time, and although we may think the prebagged snacks from the supermarket are a timesaver, the truth is they are usually 3-4 times the serving size that a child should be eating. There is no reason that we can't take just a few minutes out of our busy lives to ensure that our children have the best nutrition possible. If kids aren't exposed to healthy choices early in life, it simply becomes more difficult to change their tastes. And really, don't we all want the best for our families?

NICOLE STRAIGHT, award-winning chef, mother to two children, published author, and TV and media darling in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is the Founder and President of Time to Eat!, a company dedicated to teaching parents how to prepare fast, healthy and delicious meals in 15 minutes.

"Today," Nicole says, "most parents and busy individuals find it difficult and time-consuming to prepare a great meal that everyone will enjoy. I solve that problem literally in minutes and show you just how easy cooking for busy people, especially families, can be. Get back to the dinner table tonight. It's Time to Eat!"

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