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The 10 best back-to-school foods to give kids a boost

As children head back to school, it is important to arm them not only with the newest backpacks and pencils, but also with a nutritious diet. While the lure of fast food and quick meals can be enticing, fueling kids with healthy foods and a well-rounded diet can be easier than parents think.

“A new school year provides a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids how to make nutritious choices throughout the day,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and author of “Feeding Baby Green.” “Whether starting the day off with organic milk or packing school lunches with lots of fruits and veggies, making a conscious choice to focus on nutrition as kids return to the classroom can start with a few simple choices at the grocery store.”

To help parents get their children off to a nutritious start this school year, Horizon, the leading milk brand in the U.S., has partnered with Dr. Greene to develop the following list of the 10 best back to school foods:

The back-to-school top 10:

1. Organic milk

With some studies indicating that only one in 10 girls and one in four boys meet their calcium needs, it’s important to keep calcium-rich foods front and center in kids’ diets. Organic milk, which is produced without the use of antibiotics, toxic synthetic pesticides or artificial growth hormones, is a great choice for lunchboxes and breakfast time. Horizon makes convenient single serve milk boxes that pack perfectly into lunchboxes and provide a nutrient-rich alternative to juice drinks and other nutrient-poor beverages. In addition, Horizon organic milk with DHA omega-3 is a good choice for breakfast beverages or paired with low-sugar, whole grain cereals. DHA omega-3 has been shown to support brain, heart and eye health

2. Whole grain bread

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of our grains be whole grains, so choosing whole grains for lunchbox sandwiches and wraps is a smart strategy to boost fiber and other important nutrients. One good choice is Rudi’s Organic Bakery’s 14 Grain bread. With just three slices you get the daily recommended allowance of whole grains.

3. String cheese

Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. If your child isn’t a meat-eater, cheese is another high-protein option for lunches and snack time. String cheese is a great way to help your kids play with their food by pulling apart the cheese – and they will love munching on it too. Horizon has a variety of cheeses that are great for snacking. Mozzarella String Cheese and Colby Cheese Sticks are both kid-approved favorites.

4. Trail mix fixings

A variety of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios) and cereal (look for those high in fiber and low in sugar) can combine into one hearty snack foron-the-go kids. Plus, you can make an activity out of letting your kids create their very own one-of-a-kind mix.

5. Nut butter

Peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter – they’re all great for lunchtime sandwiches or on toast for an after-school snack.

6. Hummus

This protein-packed spread comes in a wide variety of flavors and even in single-serve packs for kids on the go. You can try it as a dip for veggies and whole-grain crackers or as a spread on wraps and sandwiches as a nutritious alternative to mayonnaise or dressing.

7. Granola bars

Granola bars can be a lower-sugar, higher-fiber alternative to cookies and candy bars. They are also great as after-school or after-sports snacks. Look for granola bars made with whole grains and with 10 grams of sugar or less. One bar that fits these criteria is Annie’s Organic Berry Berry Granola Bars. Each bar is packed with 8 grams of whole grain per serving, is certified organic and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. They’re a perfect snack to replace high sugar treats.

8. Turkey breast

Turkey breast is low in fat and high in protein, and it can be a crowd pleaser in the lunchroom. You can also get creative with turkey as part of after-school snacks – think turkey and cheese roll-ups.

9. Fruit, fruit, fruit

Apples, cherries, bananas, oranges, grapes – fruits are an important part of a well-balanced diet. Try and vary what you offer. Different fruits provide different nutrients. When looking for organic fruit options, check out Earthbound Farm, which offers a number of organic fruit products nationwide, ranging from apple slices to strawberries to grapes, citrus and blueberries.

10. Veggies, veggies, veggies

Veggies like carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, pea pods and cherry tomatoes are all great for lunchboxes and after-school snacks. Remember, the darker the veggie, the more nutritious it tends to be. To spice veggies up, you can think about serving them with a low fat salad dressing or hummus as a dip. In addition to organic fruit, Earthbound Farm also offers a full range of organic veggie products.