With school back in session, it's time for an introductory course in packing healthy lunches. You wouldn't encourage your kids to cheat, so don't cheat them of the nutrition and energy they need to be good students.

When packing school lunches, try new things one at a time. Your kids might actually learn to like new flavors and textures. And with child obesity on the rise, pay attention to fat and calories.


--Substitute white-wheat bread for white bread.

--Try whole-wheat tortillas, wraps, muffins, pitas and crackers.

--Use lettuce as a wrapper.


--Buy 100 percent fruit juice, not juice drinks.

--Send low-fat instead of whole milk.

--Pack water or low-cal-flavored water.

--Smoothies, packed in a Thermos, are a nice change of pace.


--Look for natural peanut butter, which doesn't have the added sugar.

--Pick deli meats that are low sodium and 97 percent or 98 percent fat-free.

--Select cheeses made with low-fat milk.

--Send a hard-cooked egg with fast-food salt and pepper packets.

--Scramble an egg and put atop leftover fried rice in a heated Thermos; add a soy-sauce packet.


--Move beyond apples and bananas to grapes, pears, clementines, kiwi fruit and cherries.

--Send apple slices with yogurt for dipping.

--Instead of a cookie or two, send a 100-calorie pack of cookies/sweets for an occasional treat.

--Raisins or trail mix are a fun option.

--Fruit-flavored yogurt offers sweetness plus calcium.

Other ideas

--Pack baked chips or pretzels rather than regular chips.

--Offer baby carrots or other sliced veggies with some low-fat ranch dressing or hummus for dipping.