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Kids explain how to pack a healthy back-to-school lunch

Kids are heading back to school, and that means it’s time to talk about packing a healthy lunch.

The Oregonian/Oregonlive talked with a group of children, ages 4 to 13, about their favorite (and least favorite) foods, and asked them to pack an ideal lunch. Watch the video here.

Veggies were not a hit.

“When you’re at a party and you see a vegetable tray you’re like, what a waste of money,” said Lily Corona, age 7. “You could have spent that on doughnuts.”

In the 1990s, we had the Food Pyramid. But with the revamped dietary guidelines in 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture unveiled “MyPlate,” the new visual food guide in the form of a plate.

Half of a balanced plate is made of fruits and vegetables. (Sorry, Lily.) The other half, according to USDA recommendations, should be whole grains and protein, with a splash of dairy.

When packaging a school lunch, parents should be wary of projects that tout “fruit concentrates” as being 100% fruit juice. Fruit concentrates remove the water, fiber and vitamins from fruit, but leave the sugar and calories.

A study found that close to 70 percent of packaged food in the U.S. contains added sugar. So adding fresh fruits to a lunch box can be a healthier alternative to packaged fruit cups.

And a study in California found a link between nutritious lunches and improved academic performance.

“Test score data from some 9,700 elementary, middle, and high schools found that contracting with a healthy meal vendor correlated with increased student performance by between .03 and .04 standard deviations — a statistically significant improvement,” reported The Atlantic.

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