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Brown bagging it for back to school lunches with 'grow-and-go' foods

By Karen Hawkins, DeCA dietitian

FORT LEE, Va. - It's back to school time again, so when planning meals and snacks, teach young children about making healthy choices by explaining how "grow-and-go" foods will help them feel good and have fun at school. Grow-and-go foods are foods high in complex carbohydrates, good sources of protein, include vitamins and minerals and a moderate amount of fat.

Here are some quick and easy ideas for lunch and snacks that are grow-and-go foods. Look for these in your commissary at savings of 30 percent or more:

Mix and match back to school brown-bag lunches

  • B-n-B wrap (Banana and nut butter wrap). Mash a banana and mix with any nut butter. Here is an opportunity to try a different butter – like almond butter, which is high in vitamin E and protein. If your child prefers, sprinkle with dried fruit or coconut for a different flavor. Spread it on a whole-wheat wrap or flat bread, roll it up, cut it up and bag it.
  • Turkey, ham or chicken with hummus or Greek yogurt wrap. Spread some plain hummus or Greek yogurt on a wrap, add meat slices, any cheese (optional), lettuce or spinach and cucumber slices. Roll it up and bag it. Hummus or Greek yogurt adds a unique flavor, so if your children do not like it, use mustard or a little mayonnaise.
  • M-n-C roll up (Meat and cheese roll ups). Take any thinly sliced luncheon meat and your children's favorite cheese, roll it up and bag it. Also pack some whole grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.
  • Pita pocket with curry chicken salad. Take chopped chicken and mix it with a little curry, Greek yogurt, chopped celery and chopped carrots. Put it in a whole wheat pita pocket with spinach or romaine lettuce.
  • Flat bread or bagel pizza. Toast a flat bread or 1/2 bagel pizza with spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of vegetables such as spinach, tomato slices, squash or broccoli.
  • Baby carrots, cucumbers chunks, grape tomatoes, hummus, whole-grain crackers and pita chips. Put some hummus in a small container to use as a dip. Bag the carrots, cucumber chunks and grape tomatoes. Also pack some whole grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.
  • Low-fat yogurt, cheese, sandwiches. Keep low-fat yogurt, cheese and sandwiches cold by using an ice pack, frozen juice box or frozen milk box.
  • Tortilla chips, plain yogurt and salsa. Cut up tortillas in quarters, sprinkle a little salt on them and heat them in the microwave for a minute or two. Mix the yogurt, for protein and calcium, with salsa or just put plain salsa in a small container for a dip.
  • Trail mix. Mix almonds, peanuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for a nutrient dense, energy-packed food and bag it. This is a great "take it anywhere" kind of food.
  • Great snacks. Cheese sticks, nuts, frozen yogurt, 100-percent juice in boxes, dried fruit, fresh fruit and canned fruit all make great snacks and additions to lunches.

For more information about making healthy choices, visit Ask the Dietitian and post your questions on the DeCA Dietitian Forum. Be sure to look for other useful information in the Dietitian's Voice archive. Sign up with the DeCA Dietitian on and get messages sent to your cell phone today. For delicious recipes, check out Kay's Kitchen. And to enjoy all your commissary has to offer, sign up for the Commissary Connection.

About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings amounting to thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.

Media Contact:
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773

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