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Healthy Choices: 11 of The Worst School Lunches and How To Make Them Right

Back to school means packing a lunch. Parents hate making school lunches. 55% of moms responding to a survey last year went so far as to say that the thought stresses them out.

Picky eaters, school rules, and packing it up in the morning rush all factor in to the stress of making your kid a school lunch. Toss in those Alpha Moms with the bento box magic, or the Doodling Dads with their creative sandwich bags, and all of a sudden noon hour is a tougher competition than trying to get in to the best college.

With all the stress of making a school lunch, it can be understood why parents choose the path of least resistance. Processed and packaged foods get tossed in the backpack, or the fee for the school lunch programs gets paid to make it all go away.

But lunch is an important meal to keep kids focused throughout the day. According to ChoiceUSA.net, school lunch can be up to 1/2 of a child’s nutrition for the entire day. Making a healthy, balanced meal for their midday break will help them succeed.

Have you been making ‘healthy choices’ as the stress of back-to-school season settles in? Check out some of the worst school lunches and see how many you can cop to.

  • Healthy Choices! 1 of 18
    11 of The Worst School Lunches And How To Fix Them

    Here are 11 of the worst school lunch choices you can make for your kids as well as some ways to make quick and healthy lunches, too.

  • Processed Foods 2 of 18
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    What have you been serving the kids for lunch? It's easy to grab those snack and go kits in the grocery store, but how about a little guilt trip to go with that convenience? A UK study has shown that processed foods lead to a lower IQ.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Grilled Cheese 3 of 18
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    Gotta admit, grilled cheese and tomato soup is a staple for our youngest. Notice how some slices are called "processed cheese food?" They're not even cheese; it's just oil and you're giving them nearly 50% of their calories from fat. Not good.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Lunchables 4 of 18
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    You know these things are terrible, just read the side of the package. Salty crackers, fatty cheese, processed meat. They're very high in sodium and saturated fat with almost half the calories coming from fat. You can find that dairy, carb, and protein in other options. Skip the processed, pre-made food and shop on the outside of the aisle.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Chocolate Milk 5 of 18
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    Milk is good. Chocolate or flavored milk? Terrible. Recently school boards are starting to ban the sale of flavored milks (chocolate is flavored) because it dumps too many calories (more than 150) and sugar (25 grams) into their lunch.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Cold Cuts 6 of 18
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    I know, you're starting to wonder what exactly you can feed your kids. Processed luncheon meats are filled with salt, preservatives, and nitrates. Nitrates are bad. Read the label and understand what you're feeding your kids. If they love roast beef sandwiches, slice up some leftovers instead of buying it at the deli.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Juice Boxes 7 of 18
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    If it's not 100% fruit juice, it's "basically like drinking pop without the fizz," says registered dietician Zannat Reza. "They're just sugar. Even if it says made with real fruit juice, you have to make sure it's 100% juice."

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Granola Bars 8 of 18
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    Apparently granola bars are nothing but sugar. Because, of course. In order for these things to be nutritionally solid, they need to have at least 2 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar. Read the labels.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Fries 9 of 18
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    Or better yet, fries and gravy. How many times did I see friends in high school hit the local burger joint and have this for lunch? A lot. Some school programs count fries as a vegetable because, well, potatoes. There may be protein somewhere on the cafeteria line, but just watch the kids load up on the salty fries. A large McDonald's fries has 500 calories, with almost half coming from fat. They'll fill you up, but you won't feel good.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Hot Dogs 10 of 18
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    Hot dogs are absolutely terrible. They're a childhood staple, and they're not even close to being good for us. They're packed with sodium and 77% of their calories come from fat. There's a reason Joey Chestnut can pack down 66 ... they're empty.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Mac and Cheese 11 of 18
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    Another one we are guilty of serving our 3 year old too often. Carbs + salt + fat = tasty, and not a good choice. Look at the serving size ... that boxed dinner is supposed to feed 4. Hands up if your kid scarfs down the whole thing solo.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Pudding Cups 12 of 18
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    Filled with sugar. And lots of it along with not much else. I get seduced by the "made with real milk" splashed on the side of the box too, but it's also packed with sugar.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Moderation 13 of 18
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    It's looking like all hope is lost. So many of these terrible foods are staples for our kids. While each of them has bad qualities, it's adding them all together that makes it a nasty storm of nutritionless junk. Pick and choose and toss in some healthy things and we can get things on the right track.

  • Backlash 14 of 18
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    Sometimes it's an uphill battle. Michelle Obama has been an advocate for healthier school lunches, but is facing a backlash. In Kentucky, students have complained the revamped menu "tastes like vomit." Parents are echoing their children's screams saying kids can't learn when they're hungry. So how can we get kids who have been eating poorly to eat healthy? Click along for some more ideas.

    Image via The White House on Flickr

  • Get the Kids to Help out 15 of 18
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    If you want the kids to eat it, get them to make it. Sometimes you can put all the effort into making healthy choices only to have it come home half-eaten. Post a weekly menu so the kids know what to expect, and then get them to help prepare so they feel like they have some input in the process.

    Image via iStockPhoto

  • Nine Ninja Sandwich Tips 16 of 18
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    Maybe your kids would eat their lunches if they were still edible at lunch time? Check out these 9 sandwich-making tips that can help you put together healthy lunches that stay yummy for hours.

    Image via 9Gag

  • Sandwiches Are Bad 17 of 18
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    But, we learned that the meat we toss in our sandwiches isn't good for the kids, what other options are there?! Click through for 10 healthy school lunch ideas — that don't involve sandwiches!

  • New Lunch Box 18 of 18
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    When it's all said and done, grab them a shiny new lunch bag to toss it in. I miss my old Evel Kneivel lunch box. Here's a look at 24 other cute ones.

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