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Off-to-School Health Special

Better school lunches

Sandwich upgrade

Packing lunch

Switching to whole-wheat bread isn't the only way to make your kid's lunch pack a healthier punch. Rethinking what you put between those slices can also add nutrients  -- and variety. Kid-tested suggestions from dietitian Bridget Swinney, the author of Baby Bites:

Old standby: Peanut butter and jelly
Upgrade: Almond, cashew, or sunflower-seed butter instead of peanut. All three provide significantly more iron and magnesium. Almond and sunflower butters also offer almost three times the vitamin E; almond provides calcium, too.

Old standby: Turkey or ham
Upgrade: Lean roast beef. It's nutritionally denser than turkey or ham, providing the same amount of protein but a lot more iron, zinc, and vitamin B12  -- for about the same or only slightly more fat and calories.

Old standby: Bologna
Upgrade: Turkey or meatless bologna. Turkey has about half the fat, with just as much protein. Better still: Meatless (which is made from wheat and soy but tastes surprisingly good) has zero fat and cholesterol, and about twice the protein of regular.

Old standby: Cream cheese and jelly
Upgrade: Low-fat cream cheese with fruit spread. You'll cut four grams of fat per ounce of cheese. Fruit spreads (like Polaner All Fruit or Smucker's Simply Fruit) have about 20 percent fewer calories and about a third less sugar than jellies and jams.

Field trip tip! A double brown bag with a frozen water bottle or juice box inside works just as well as an insulated sack or lunch box to keep foods fresh  -- and you don't have to worry about it getting left behind. The drink will thaw in time for lunch.

Plus: Get more yummy ideas with our School Lunch Planner

photo: Getty Images