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How to Reduce Sugar in School Lunchboxes

At a time when even yogurt has come under scrutiny for its sugar content, it’s hard to know what constitutes a healthful lunch anymore.

Any way you slice it, too much sugar can be harmful for your health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 16 grams of sugar daily for toddlers and a maximum of 32 grams of sugar per day for teens. Many children as young as 1-3-years old already surpass daily recommendations — typically consuming around 48 grams of sugar daily, according to an AHA study. Older kids consume even more. Pediatric health experts recommend reducing sugar in children’s diets.

Some foods that you may not consider “sweet” have more sugar than you may think. A yogurt cup and a granola bar contain about 25 grams of sugar. That’s an entire day’s worth of sugar in one seemingly nutritious snack. Add a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a juice box, and your child may have consumed more than 50 grams of sugar before afternoon snack.

What’s a parent to do? You don’t need to replace your child’s favorite food. You don’t even need to say goodbye to any individual lunch item. However, you can moderate the total amount of sugar that’s being consumed on a daily basis by replacing just one sugary food with a savory one.

With this goal in mind, here are some great ideas for savory swaps.

• Replace yogurt with hummus and carrots.

• Swap out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a cheese and mustard sandwich.

• Like the convenience of fruit cups? Replace them with Pearls Olives to Go! in a cup, which are gluten-free, sugar-free black ripe olives that are convenient because they have no messy liquid.

• Replace a juice box with water and a twist of lemon.

• Instead of a granola bar, add a serving of almonds or walnuts.

• Other savory items to try: hard boiled eggs, cubed cheese, cheese sticks, different varieties of olives, peanut butter and celery, sliced pickles and air-popped popcorn.

• For fun and flavor: Pack a put-together mini pizza kit: small pita, shredded cheese, a tablespoon of sauce and a Pearls Olives to Go! cup of sliced or whole black olives.

• For dessert, swap out cookies for some blueberries or strawberries. Sugars in whole fruit enter the bloodstream slowly, and don’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar as does junk food.

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Ask your children for their input, too. This is an opportunity to talk to kids about making good food choices. If the foods you’re trying aren’t working, keep experimenting. Most importantly, don’t try to change too much at once. Being a parent is hard enough without making lunchtime a battle.


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