Parenting: Lunches kids will eat that don't frazzle Mom

PHILADELPHIA - September 13, 2010

The question is, can busy Moms like me make school lunches that are easy to prepare, healthy AND that our kids will like? It's a question we posed to Chef Christina Dimacali of Clean Your Plate. And her answer was a definite "yes."

She understands the dilema.

"Everybody is out of time, nobody ever has enough time to put things together," she says.

All it takes, Dimacali says, is just a little planning ahead.

"They can actually be quick and easy and still be healthy," she says of easy-to-make lunches from home. One of the keys to a healthy lunch is sneaking in vegetables.

Instead of a boring turkey sandwich, Dimacali makes an Asian Moo-shu Turkey Wrap with lettuce, tomato and cucumbers.

Or, she says, you can use leftover meatballs, meatloaf or ground beef to make a simple but delicious Cowboy Chili, with peppers, tomatoes, celery and beans. Keep it hot in a thermos.

"So start with a protein. Work in a game plan of where it's going to be: a sandwich, a wrap, a pasta. Then, for your vegetable, see how you can try to infuse some vegetables in there," she says.

Dimacali also has tips for snacks and desserts. Number one: think volume -- popcorn's great because it's crunchy and salty, and a lot healthier than chips.

"Because it's so much lighter for the volume of food, they're still moving their hands and noshing and talking with their friends, so they'll never really miss those extra calories," she says. "So, actually buying crispy things that are a little bit lighter that aren't fried, can actually be a really good thing and they'll never really notice it."

She also suggests making your own trail mix, with a lot less sugar than packaged mixes. She uses Kashi Heart-to-Heart cereal with a few nuts and a teaspoon of golden raisins.

To check out all of Christina's Back-to-School recipes, click here to get her website, and then click on the red apples in the upper right-hand corner.

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