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Why it's important to include grains in back-to-school lunch for kids

When prepping for back to school meals for your kids, it's important to not omit the grains! Nutrition Consultant, Shari Steinbach gives tips why it's important.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When you’re planning back to school meals for your children don’t omit the grains! Bread and cereals are good sources of fiber, carbohydrates, protein, several B vitamins and minerals such as iron. Grains are an essential part of a healthy diet, providing nutrients and energy for a child's normal growth and development.

School children need about 5-7 servings of grain foods per day depending on age, sex and activity level. (One serving = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal or ½ cup pasta/rice).

Whole grains typically have more fiber as the bran, germ and endosperm are included. Make half your grain servings whole grains.

Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word “enriched” is included on the grain name.

Refined, enriched grains such as bread and cereals can be part of a healthy balanced diet but it’s important to limit refined “indulgences” like donuts, cakes and cookies.

Try some of these delicious recipes that combine nutrient-rich ingredients with the goodness of grains:

Credit: Shari Steinbach

Lunch Box Rice & Bean Burrito Bowl 

These delicious bowls offer a hefty serving of protein, fiber and calcium for your growing child!

Makes 1 serving; Prep time – 10 minutes


¾ cup cooked brown or white rice

½ cup canned black beans, drained

¼ cup corn

½ cup shredded rotisserie chicken


4 halved cherry tomatoes

¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Add a side of whole grain tortilla chips and an individual guacamole


  • Stir together rice, beans, corn, and chicken. Heat to 180°F then transfer to a thermos. (Eat within 3 hours.) Pack cherry tomatoes and cheese separately to be used as a topping.
  • Serve with tortilla chips and guacamole.
Credit: Shari Steinbach

Asian Chicken Wraps 

Who says a bagged salad kit can only be used for salads? With a few other simple ingredients, like wraps, deli chicken and edamame, you can turn an Asian chopped salad kit into these yummy Asian Chicken Wraps that are perfect to pack in lunchboxes.

Makes 6 servings; Prep time – 10 minutes


1 package DOLE® Sesame Asian chopped salad kit

6 (8-inch) whole wheat wraps

1 cup shelled edamame

2 green onions, sliced

12 ounces deli sliced low-sodium chicken breast


Prepare salad according to directions. Mix in edamame and green onions. Lay wrap on flat surface. Top with chicken and salad. Roll up and cut in half. Serve with fresh berries and milk

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 304, Fat 9g, Protein 21g, Carbohydrates 26g, Fiber 6g, Sodium 734mg, Cholesterol 25mg, Calcium 150mg, Iron 3mg

Recipe Source: produceforkids.com

Credit: Shari Steinbach

Caesar Pasta Salad

Makes 8 servings; Prep time – 20 minutes


1 (14.5 oz.) box whole grain rotini pasta

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 (14.5 oz.) can low-sodium cannellini beans, rinsed, drained

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup Caesar dressing

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 large zucchini, julienned


Cook pasta according to package instructions and rinse with cold water. Mix tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers and garlic in large mixing bowl. Add cooked pasta, dressing, cheese and zucchini and mix well. Serve with Fruit Naturals® and milk

Nutritional Value Per Serving: Calories: 289, Fat: 2.3g, Protein: 14g, Carbohydrates: 57g, Fiber 9g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 228mg, Calcium: 109mg, Iron: 3.5mg

Recipe Source: produceforkids.com

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