Healthy Brown-Bag Lunches Your Kids Will Love!


Story Updated: Sep 19, 2012

With the stresses of another new school year, packing a healthy lunch for your kids can feel as tough as a final exam. But don't give up and reach for the PB&J just yet. There are plenty of healthy school lunch ideas to tempt young taste buds.

The keys to any healthy school lunch are portion size and variety, says Jill Kammerer, a registered dietician at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Because portion size varies by age, weight and activity level, Kammerer suggests visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate site for suggested menu plans and calorie requirements. Once you know how much your children should be eating, try these tips to find a good mix of lunch choices they won't trade with their friends.

Stay Balanced

A healthy lunch should have a mix of protein (meat, beans or nuts), vegetables or salad, fruit or 100 percent fruit juice, whole grains (rice, pasta or bread) and dairy or vitamin D-fortified soy products.

Get Your Child's Input

Ask your child to help plan her lunches for the week, or take her grocery shopping and encourage her to pick something new. Suggest themes, such as Spanish-food week. "If they feel involved, they're more likely to eat it," Kammerer says.

Make Healthy Swaps

Create your own nutritionally superior versions of packaged meals. For instance, instead of buying prepackaged deli lunches -- which are both pricey and high in sodium and preservatives -- go to the deli counter and get slices of lean roast beef or turkey and low-fat cheese. Add whole-wheat crackers, and your kids can make their own mini-sandwiches!

Try Variations of Old Favorites

Take a break from peanut butter in the classic PB&J and use almond or cashew butter instead. Both of these are equally high in protein, and almond butter is also rich in vitamin E. Or put your child's favorite lean cold cuts and cheese in a tortilla for a quick wrap; slice it, and you have fun-to-eat pinwheels. Spread tomato sauce in a pita pocket and add shredded low-fat mozzarella and veggies for a lunch pizza.

Watch for Added Sugars

Fruit cups are often packed in sugary syrup, and fruit strips are usually "fruit" in name only. For healthy school lunches, choose fresh fruit or fruit cups in natural juices to keep.

Go Fresh

"Get them used to things that are fresh," Kammerer says. "The younger you start, the better." Let your kids dip raw vegetables into reduced-fat sour cream jazzed up with spices, or have them choose fresh fruits and nuts for a homemade trail mix.

Make Them "App"-y

Kids love to nibble, so a lunch of appetizers should be a hit. Try baked pita chips with hummus or fresh salsa, cheese cubes and frozen grapes.

Pack Smart Sweets

Flavored gelatin, low-fat pudding, a homemade oatmeal-raisin cookie or graham crackers will all satisfy your kids' sweet tooth without an excess of fat and calories (save the cupcakes for class parties!). But, adds Kammerer, "If your child is overweight, fruit needs to be the dessert."

Have Fun with Presentation

Divided plastic containers can help if you have an eater who doesn't want certain foods to touch. Colorful plastic wrap instead of a resealable plastic bag is sure to bring a smile. And be sure to add a riddle or an "I Love You" note once in a while -- it's a perfect no-calorie surprise!

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Welcome to New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford
The New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford is a 242 bed facility located in Chenango County about thirty miles north of Binghamton NY. Situated on a sixty acre site, the Home has spectacular scenic views of rural countryland. We provide state of the art medical, nursing, psychosocial, and rehabilitative services to our residents. We also have several academic affiliations including the Upstate Medical Center College of Medicine/Clinical Campus at Binghamton.

About Us
The New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford is a long term care skilled nursing facility. We are located in Oxford NY, and we serve the Central New York Region. We provide care for veterans and their dependents. Our current building has 242 beds in seven different units, including our rehabilitation unit and our dementia unit. Our facility is clean and pleasant, and our staff is friendly and professional. We welcome you to a guided tour upon request!

Dr. Dzwonczyk – Medical Director

Dr. Dzwonczyk Receives Certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Philip J. Dzwonczyk, MD has been certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Dzwonczyk joins more than nineteen hundred fellow physicians to have achieved such certification.

Hospice and palliative medicine is the medical discipline of the broad therapeutic model known as hospice and palliative care. The discipline and model of care are devoted to achieving the best possible quality of life for the patient and family throughout the course of a life-threatening illness through the relief of suffering and the control of symptoms. Hospice and palliative medicine helps the patient and family face the prospect of death assured that comfort will be a priority, values and decisions will be respected, spiritual and psychosocial needs will be addressed, practical support will be available and opportunities will exist for growth and development. Hospice in the United States is an organized program that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients and supportive services to patients, their families, and significant others.

Dr. Dzwonczyk is the medical director of the New York State Veterans Home in Oxford. He recently completed the Harvard Medical School Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice and has worked for many years as an internist and geriatrician practicing in central New York. Dr. Dzwonczyk received his undergraduate degree from the University of Scranton and his doctor of medicine degree from Jefferson Medical College. He trained in internal medicine and psychiatry at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds specialty certificates in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. He has achieved Certified Medical Director status from the American Medical Directors Association and is a Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. Dzwonczyk has directed the medical care of patients at the New York State Veterans Home since 1993 and has been active as a medical educator. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Upstate Medical University and is active as a member of the faculty of the Geriatric Medicine Clerkship of the Clinical Campus in Binghamton. In addition to his interest in palliative care, Dr. Dzwonczyk has an interest in the evaluation and management of cognitive and mood disorders of the elderly.

The American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine was formed in 1995 to establish and measure the level of knowledge, attitudes and skills required for certification of physicians practicing hospice and palliative medicine. Eligibility requirements for certification are significant. In order to be eligible to sit for the certifying examination, applicants must have received prior major specialty certification, practiced at least two years following residency, worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team for at least two years and have directly participated in the active care of at least fifty terminally ill patients in the preceding three years. Alternatively, applicants must have completed specialty fellowship training in palliative medicine. The fellowship training program must be at least one year in length and must meet the established voluntary standards for such a program.

ABHPM conducts its Certification Examination in Hospice and Palliative Medicine annually at multiple sites through the United States. Currently, 1908 physicians have been certified by virtue of meeting certification requirements, including successful completion of this examination. A listing of currently certified physicians may be viewed on the Boards website at

Information on the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine may be obtained from the website at or by call (301) 439-8001.

Welcome to New York State Veterans' Home at Oxford