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Healthy, easy entree for school lunch

Grilled chicken quesadilla good option for kids back at school

POSTED: August 20, 2014 1:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

A cheesy chicken quesadilla with avocado sauce is a simple and easy entree to fix at night for your school-age child's lunch.

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If all the commercials on the Disney channel and Nickelodeon are to be believed, children nowadays can survive on gogurt, Kraft mac-n-cheese and pop tarts alone.

While the smiling, photogenic children seem to appreciate the sugar high, the camera doesn’t show the inevitable slump following a meal full of processed foods. While the processed options are convenient, they are not worth the after-burnout.

Several easy options exist to include in your child’s lunch that won’t take time away from a hectic morning routine but also will not add to their waistlines.

Trae Cown, the nutritionist in charge of compiling menus for the Hall County School district, insists the school lunches have all the necessary vitamins and calorie counts to satisfy your child’s health needs. For nutritious and enjoyable snacks, Cown recommends several options easy to throw into a lunch bag.

“Buy the low-fat cheese sticks made with 2 percent milk or less,” Cown said. “A lot of kids are allergic to them, but nuts are a great option in moderation: almonds, walnuts.”

While juice boxes may be a childhood staple, the havoc they wreak on your child’s blood sugar may not be worth the convenient straw-pouch combo.

“There’s really not any juices that are more healthy than any others,” Cown said. “They’re all naturally high in sugar from the fruit, and that has a good bit of calories. Getting nutrition from a juice is never as good as getting it from an actual fruit itself.”

When it comes to actual fruit, Cown recommends “grab and go” fruits such as apples and bananas as snacks. While the fruits are high in natural sugar, the added fiber content will help your child feel fuller throughout the day.

For children who do want to bring their lunch, a four-course meal isn’t required, and neither is a vacuum-sealed, high-sodium Lunchable. A healthy chicken cheese quesadilla can be prepared in minutes on a stove top or in a panini press or quesadilla maker.

Once the hot, healthy entree is finished, cut it into quarters and place inside a tupperware box for easy storage until lunch time.

As a side, hummus and vegetables are a healthy replacement for chips and dip. If your child is truly vegetable-adverse, whole wheat pita chips will add fiber to their diet.

This 3- to 5-minute meal can be made in the morning or the night before to cut down on the morning ruckus.

For more healthy snack options, parents can visit www.fruitsandvegetablesmorematters.org.

If you don’t have the time or the funds to create quick, healthy meals for your child, have no fear.

“With (the school system’s) nutritious meals and the standard we’re upheld to, it’s probably easiest to eat at school,” Cown said.



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