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Encourage healthy habits with Alaska-harvested school lunch ingredients

For many parents, packing school lunches can be challenging. You want to provide your kids with healthy foods (preferably ones that are quick and easy to make in the morning) and they want foods that are delicious and fun.

There are ways for you and your kids to win the lunchbox battle says Marcia Anderson, Registered Dietitian and Health Promotion Program Manager at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. School lunches, she said, are an opportunity for teachable moments when it comes to fostering lifelong healthy eating habits. She shared a few tips on providing meals that are fun and provide energy.

"Healthy eating does start at home and can be delightful, interesting and fun for the whole family," Anderson said. "Involve your child by inviting them to share in preparing their lunch. Encourage them to help in cooking meals. Set up a tasting activity at home or for a school project."

Because food preferences are established early in life, providing healthy meals that are based on lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can teach kids to prefer those foods in adulthood. Luckily for Alaska moms and dads, many of those options can be grown or harvested in-state. Parents can include kids on hunting and fishing trips, berry-picking excursions and gardening endeavors. Added bonus: these foods can help protect against disease and promote a healthy body weight.

Encourage variety and swap out that daily PB&J with some new food creations that are fun, tasty and colorful to ensure your kid's lunch is eaten and not thrown away or traded in the lunchroom.

Here are a few kid-friendly, Alaska-harvested recipes to try this month:

Salmon Salad Spread


There's a good chance you already have salmon in your freezer from summer fishing. Alaska salmon is low in saturated fats and high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making it an important brain food. Paired with a medley of vegetables, this salmon spread is already on its way to a well-rounded lunchtime option.


This versatile dish can be served between whole wheat bread slices, on crackers, with celery or stuffed in a pita shell. Pair with some colorful fruit like grapes and berries and a few cubes of cheese to make a complete lunch.

No-Bake Fruit Pizza


For a fun, quick and healthy lunch, try a no-bake fruit pizza. Not only does it cover a variety of food groups, but it's also colorful and customizable, making it a good option for picky eaters.


If your toppings are primarily fruit, balance this lunch with a few servings of vegetables and some pretzels.

Spaghetti and Moose Meatballs

A dish your kids will enjoy for its slurpability and you'll love for its easiness to make and nutritional benefits. A three-ounce serving of moose boasts 25 grams of protein and is low in fat and sodium, so your kiddo will be able to power through the second half of the day.


To round out this lunch, match it with some fresh vegetables and fruit leather for dessert.

Learn more about Alaska plants as food and the fresh ingredients available in the "Store Outside Your Door" online.


This article was produced by the special content department of Alaska Dispatch News in collaboration with ANTHC. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at jgonzales@alaskadispatch.com. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.