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Packed lunches dont have to be unhealthy
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A peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich is one of several options for brown bagging kids’ lunches in a more healthy form. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

Packing a healthy lunch for your child becomes trickier all the time.

There are so many options that are advertised on television and found at the grocery store in convenient packaging to make the chore a little easier for parents, but that doesn’t always translate into healthy lunches.

The trend on brown bagging your child’s lunch — even parents’ lunch at work — can give parents peace of mind that your little one is eating a nutritious meal.

"We like the variety (of taking lunch to school), and with the first child it was almost like a bragging right to have the best lunch box and lunch," said Gainesville mother of three, Beth Weikel, who sent her children’s lunch everyday. "I made a joke about when they all started kindergarten, peanut butter and jelly was a favorite and after the first month of school I wondered why I had gained 5 pounds. I realized it was because I cut the crust off of the peanut butter and jelly in the morning and I was eating the crust of two sandwiches of peanut butter and jelly every morning for a month."

Weikel joked how the brown bag lunches change a little with each child.

"With the first child, you cut the crust off and you triangle the sandwich, and with the second one you cut the crust off but you forget to slice it. But with the third one, they eat crust and all," she said.

She does have some tips to help make packing lunches easier.

"For peanut butter and jelly and I would freeze them, freeze the bread and then put the peanut butter and jelly on them — and the bread doesn’t get soggy," she said. "... I really miss those days."

Tina Santos, the parent coordinator at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, said she thought it was important to send a low in sugar and healthy lunch with her daughter to school.

"I used to make her turkey sandwiches and homemade juice, water, fruit," she said. "... No soda or juices that had more than four grams of sugar — that was my goal — eight grams was the max. Me personally, I put half juice and half water.

The juices that Santos made for her daughter, who is now a mother herself, weren’t always hand-squeezed.

"I would make lemonade, orange juice, Minute Maid without sugar in it," said Santos, who suggested buying organic or natural juices for your children. "... You don’t need that much sugar because they get hyper."

Lana Stuart in Buford, who writes a food blog, Never Enough Thyme, said she doesn’t have children in school anymore, but she makes special panini’s for her granddaughters when they visit. Those could translate into a yummy and upscale school lunch.

Stuart makes bananas and Nutella spread on a panini and heated or a heated apple and Brie panini.

But for parents that are in a rush and want to offer healthy lunches with great sandwiches and sides and homemade flair, Publix just launched their fresh Kids Deli Meals.

The ready-to-eat kids meals have an entrée, two sides and a drink and are found in the deli section.

Main entrees include things like chicken tenders, ham sandwich thins and a peanut butter and apple wrap, among others. Carrots, yogurt, string cheese with juice or water are options that also come with the meals.

"One of our first priorities was to make it low in sodium and to make it balanced so there will be a protein and a fruit, and to make it convenient," said Brenda Reid, media and community relations manager for Publix.

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