4 reasons milk boxes are the new juice box

There’s a reason juice boxes made their way into lunch boxes over the years. They taste good, require no refrigeration, and fit nicely into compact containers. The downside is that many juice boxes are full of added sugar. However, a single swap — out with the juice, in with the milk — can turn your child’s afternoon meal into a sustaining and nutritious lunch. Here’s how.

It’s a bone-building beverage

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Not only is vitamin D needed for strong bones, it’s also good for strong teeth. Kids can get vitamin D from the sun as well as foods such as egg yolks, fish and liver. Not their favorite choices? Not to worry. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D. A typical 8-ounce serving provides 25 percent of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin D and 20 percent of the recommended Daily Value for calcium.

It’s also a muscle-builder

Just one cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein, including nine essential amino acids. Since our bodies don’t produce essential amino acids on their own, we need to consume them through our diets in order to function properly. Plus, protein helps us stay full, especially when paired with fiber and a small amount of fat — preferably unsaturated fat (like nut butter or avocado).

Seeing the bright side

If it’s hard to get your kids to eat carrots, remember that milk fortified with vitamin A can also prevent eye problems. Additionally, vitamin A helps kids see better at night and see better in color during the day. A good choice for this, and one that’s shelf-stable for lunch boxes, is Horizon Organic milk boxes.

Doubles as dessert

Ditch the snack cake and replace it with something that’s still sweet and delicious, but also full of nutrients. The 8-ounce Horizon Organic boxed milks, for example, have flavored options like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. They taste better than most lunch box desserts, and have less sugar than juice.

Build a better lunch

Here are some recommendations for building balanced lunch boxes with all five food groups:

• Dairy: Horizon Organic Single Serve Milk, Two Good Greek Yogurt, Horizon cheese sticks

• Grains: Whole-grain bread, whole-grain tortilla, whole-grain crackers

• Protein: hard-boiled egg, sliced turkey or ham, shredded chicken

• Vegetable: carrots and hummus, cucumbers and ranch

• Fruit: fresh berries, orange slices, apple

Claire Henning is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Marshall.