Build a Better Bag

MISSION, KS — (Marketwired) — 07/18/14 — (Family Features) Brown bag lunches and back to school go hand in hand. As you’re gearing up for the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to stock the pantry with healthy sack lunch options and after school snacks, too.

While schools across the nation are adopting new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards to increase kids’ access to healthy food, parents who pack lunch at home can take similar steps to reinvent the traditional brown bag into a more nutritious (and fun) lunch that kids will enjoy.

But weighing the nutritional value of different foods at the grocery store can be confusing and time consuming.

Many food retailers are providing tools such as the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which uses a scale of 1 to 100 to depict nutritional values at a glance, to help make choices easier. In stores using the NuVal system, food scores are included on grocery store price tags, making it easy to compare options. Higher scores represent foods with higher nutritional value.

Food scores can simplify the process of building a brown bag lunch that is better for the kids. “I always recommend small steps to parents,” said Marisa Paolillo, a NuVal nutritionist. “A good place to start is swapping the same types of food. For instance, NuVal scores for yogurt can range from 7 to 100, depending on sugar content and other factors. It’s easy to swap a low-scoring product for a higher one, and kids probably won’t notice the difference.”

Paolillo also recommends talking with your kids about the choices you make at the grocery store. Engaging them in the selection process teaches them to make better selections for themselves, such as when they are making meal choices in the lunch cafeteria or snacking with friends after school.