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Pass the pecans

4 easy and healthy tips to lunch lighter and snack smarter

4 easy and healthy tips to lunch lighter and snack smarter

Bento box lunchbox by My Square Meal
Fill a bento-style lunchbox by My Square Meal with healthy choices. Photo courtesy of My Square Meal
Bento box lunchbox by My Square Meal
Customizable bento-style lunchboxes by My Square Meal are easy to carry too. Photo courtesy of My Square Meal
Bento box lunchbox by My Square Meal
Bento box lunchbox by My Square Meal

A paper sack doesn't exactly inspire healthy food choices. After all, you can fit a slice of leftover pizza, a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies and a Coca-Cola in there without so much as straining. But that's not a good thing.

To meet your family's health and weight loss goals, you need to lunch lighter and snack smarter. A new beginning can be as simple as making over your lunchboxes with smaller portions of increased variety and healthier, nutrient-dense snacks great for the office and school.

Eating a more varied diet throughout the day isn’t just more enjoyable for the palate; a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that combination snacks — like vegetables and cheese or nuts and fruit — can be an effective means for children to reduce caloric intake while snacking, proving that a little variety can go a long way when it comes to lunchtime.

The study found that nutrient-dense snacks actually satisfied appetites faster than unhealthy alternatives, resulting in the consumption of fewer calories overall throughout the day.

Here are four simple steps to a healthier lunchbox:

Go bento style

Although what’s in the lunchbox is important, opting for a bento-style container can make the switch to smaller portions easy and fun. Boxes like My Square Meal’s bento box (created by two former Dallas school teachers) come with seven set compartments that hold small quantities of a variety of foods, allowing lunchers to “snack” on their spread and eat a well-balanced meal.

These boxes are also eco-friendly and dishwasher safe. Plus they come with a reusable spork made of biodegradable cornstarch.

Blend your food groups

Two food groups are always better than one, and the added variety keeps lunchtime exciting and healthy. Popping in a well-balanced snack that delivers a combination of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates sates you and your kids until the next meal.

Examples could be skim-milk cheese paired with whole-grain crackers or a KIND Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate bar accompanied with a sliced apple.

Grab more grain

Most Americans get only one serving of whole grains per day, largely because they don’t like the texture of typical options. The solution? Keep things crunchy and satisfying with a side of whole grain pretzels, a mini-bag of popped Orville Redenbacher’s Natural Popcorn or a mini bag of KIND Healthy Grains.

Unleash your inner artist

Make healthy snacks look more appetizing by tapping into your creative side. A cookie cutter turns whole-grain sandwiches and cheese into something fun to eat. Build colorful kebabs by skewering fruits and vegetables.