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Smart eats: making healthy food choices for kids on the go

Ideal and realistic options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks



Shannon Robertson, registered dietitian at Curahealth Hospital New Orleans, says many families struggle to find time for even one home-cooked meal a week. No matter the provenance of your repast, a well-rounded meal should include protein, fruits and veggies. She suggests both ideal and realistic options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. And don't forget dessert.


Cereals can contain a lot of processed ingredients, so choose cereals with a lot of whole grains, especially ancient grains, or oatmeal.

The ideal: Set aside at least one morning a week as a brunch day, when everyone can sit down and eat a hot breakfast together.

The real: Portability reigns. Robertson recommends cereal bars or yogurt with a little added granola, but says to check the nutrition label for excessive sugars (the American Heart Association recommends no more 6 to 9 teaspoons of sugar per day). For an easy hot breakfast, scramble two eggs in a mug with a little milk and microwave for a minute and a half. Serve with an English muffin.


Robertson suggests making lunch fun. To drink, she likes water or juice pouches with no added sugar — the more natural the better.

The ideal: Make lunch kebabs. Skewer cheese cubes, grapes, cut-up veggies and deli meat or cubes of chicken breast with pretzel sticks or bamboo skewers (cut in half to reduce the chance the kids will weaponize them).

The real: String cheese sticks and a simple sandwich will get the job done nicely. And don't forget a serving of fruit.


Portion control is the name of the game, Robertson says. Make sure dinner includes a lean protein such as pork loin or seafood, a vegetable and a source of fiber. It's OK to indulge in a little bread or even a baked potato, but be wary of adding too many salty, fatty condiments. There are ways to sneak in veggies — dishes like cauliflower rice and zucchini "pasta" make great substitutes for starchy white rice. Stay away from meal-in-a-box dinners — they're full of unhealthy preservatives, she says.

The ideal: Dishes like stuffed bell peppers cover most food groups. Robertson suggests exchanging the rice in the stuffing with quinoa or another whole grain.

The real: Opt for low-fat and low-sodium takeout, such as a rotisserie chicken and a big green salad from the salad bar. Steam-in-the-bag veggies make a great side dish.


"Look for things that are high in fiber and protein," Robertson says. "Any snacks that (kids) can help make is a big plus, such as frozen banana pops — they're really easy and good for summertime."

The ideal: Robertson loves hummus and guacamole cups accompanied by carrot sticks or other sliced raw veggies. Fruit kebabs also are filling, as are roasted chickpeas.

The real: Substitute pretzel crisps for the veggies with hummus or guacamole. String cheese is another go-to, or healthier snacks like Veggie Straws.


Fresh fruit is preferable to refined sugar-loaded items. Strawberries topped with whipped cream top Robertson's list.

The ideal: Bake fruits, such as apples and pears, sprinkle with a little sugar substitute and serve warm.

The real: "Once in a while, you just need a cookie," she says.

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