AUSTIN, Texas (July 26, 2004) With the start of school right around the corner, back-to-school means more than just school supplies and new clothes. With alarming numbers of the nation's children overweight and obese, healthier school lunches and after-school snacking play a large role in back-to-school planning.

An easy move for parents is to pick more healthful options than typical lunch box fare such as deli meats with no nitrates, organically grown produce, and snacks with no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated fats. To help parents build an even better lunchbox, Whole Foods Market®, the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket, recommends new twists and alternatives to add variety, nutrition, and energy to lunchboxes. The Whole Foods Market Cool School Fuel line up includes avocados, blueberries, eggs, kale, nuts and seeds, beans, salmon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and yogurt.

“While some of these may not be the first choices one considers for children's lunchboxes, these are nutrient powerhouses that contribute to a comprehensive diet of essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for brain development, as well as vitamins A, C and B, calcium, and fiber, all of which are proven elements of a healthy diet,” said Whole Foods Market top nutritionist and quality standards coordinator, Jody Villecco. “Start incorporating these foods into your children's diets now in fun, creative ways so they will accept them as regular staples as they get older.”

The Cool School Fuel Line-up


, with their smooth texture and mild flavor, are an optimum choice for children as they pack plenty of potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, and carotene. They also contain monounsaturated fat-the “good fat.” Send them to school with a spoon to be eaten right from the skin.


top the charts with antioxidants. They are low in sugars and are an excellent source of nutrients for brain, eye, and vascular health. Their portability and availability in fresh and frozen form make them easy to incorporate into smoothies, baked goods, and fruit salads year-round.


are the prize winners for value and high quality nutrition because of their protein, vitamin B2, vitamin A, and iron content. Their versatility makes them a super option for all three meals and even snack time.


is the number one nutrient powerhouse in the greens category since it is a plentiful source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and antioxidants. Finely chopped, it can be added to all kinds of dishes like soups, meat loafs, and lasagnas.

Nuts and seeds

are a satisfying, versatile, and nutritious snack and also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium. They can be easily sprinkled in to all kinds of dishes and even on sandwiches and in wraps for added crunch.

  Beans are a versatile, inexpensive protein power source and a great source of fiber, folate, magnesium, and selenium. Certain colored beans such as kidney and black have high levels of antioxidants. Enjoy them in bean dips, hummus and spreads or add to tacos, soups, and chili.



is a top source for omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart and mental health. Have some frozen fillets on hand for quick and easy grilling or pan sautéing. Try salmon burgers or salmon tacos made from wild Alaska salmon, which is the best environmental seafood choice.

Sweet potatoes

are convenient, delicious, and easily portable, and they are an excellent source of vitamins A and E. Make oven-baked sweet potato fries to please the kids.


are a highly nutritious staple food loaded with vitamin C and lycopene. Cherry and grape tomatoes are easy, portable snacks as are packing pastas with tomato sauce and a Thermos of tomato juice.


is a versatile and enjoyable snack, meal, or dessert and is a super source of calcium for growing bones. It contains probiotic bacteria for intestinal and overall health. In addition to ready-to-go portions, add it to smoothies or dips.

Smart Choices for Kids

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four overweight teenagers remain overweight into adulthood. In addition, about 15 percent of children and adolescents (age 6-19) today are overweight-almost double the rate of two decades ago.* Because of these and similar trends, there is national interest in providing nutritious school lunches and after-school snacks to help parents and children make smart choices about their diet and to maintain a healthy weight.


“Parents can take small steps now to improve their children's diet and greatly reduce the risks of obesity and other health problems down the road,” said Andrew Weil, M.D., author and internationally recognized expert on Integrative Medicine. “Cut out sodas and sugary, high fat junk foods and switch to foods that are low in fat and high in fiber. Try incorporating satisfying, high-protein snacks and avoid lunchbox foods containing hydrogenated oils and other additives. Keep in mind that sugar can be fattening, especially when combined with fats — as in ice cream, candies, and pastries — and can trigger major mood swings.”

Besides the Cool School Fuel recommendations, Whole Foods Market has done additional homework for parents, making it easier to shop for wholesome foods without trying to decipher sometimes confusing food labels.

“Parents can shop with the assurance that the foods they purchase at Whole Foods Market meet the highest standards for quality. Every product on the shelf is free of hydrogenated oils, artificial additives, preservatives, sweeteners, colors, and flavors,” Villecco said.

Traditional lunchboxes including a sandwich, chips, a sweet snack, and soda can contain nitrates, preservatives, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. “At Whole Foods Market, parents can make the same lunch with healthier alternatives: deli meats that contain no nitrates; breads with no preservatives and even gluten-free options; soy milk for lactose-intolerant children or organic milk without antibiotics or added growth hormones; organically grown fruits and veggies: and snacks without hydrogenated fats and artificial additives,” Villecco said.

Healthy lunchbox snacks can be just as nutritious as they are delicious. Weil added, “Encourage snacking on healthy foods such as fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, a small handful of raw, unsalted nuts-cashews and walnuts, a piece of flavorful, natural cheese, or a piece of dark chocolate.”

  *Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention