GINNA PARSONS: Healthy habits begin at home

In this coming Sunday’s paper, you’ll see a couple of stories on school lunches written by our education reporter, Chris Kieffer, and me.
Chris’ part will deal with the ins and outs of cafeteria lunches. My part will focus on helping parents and students make wise decisions at lunch, whether the kids are eating food prepared in the cafeteria or taking a lunch from home.
For the past three years, my children have insisted on brown-bagging it. It’s not that they think cafeteria food is bad or non-nutritious. Their gripe is that once they get through the line and get settled at a table, they have only a few minutes to eat – and more importantly, to socialize.
I usually prepare identical lunches for 13-year-old Patrick and 16-year-old Mary. A typical lunch includes a turkey sandwich made with low-fat cheese on some type of whole-wheat bread, whether that’s loaf bread, a sandwich thin or a tortilla wrap; baked chips, pretzels or goldfish; a piece of fresh fruit; and a bottle of water.
And yes, they eat it. And like it.
In the process of doing interviews for my story, I repeatedly heard the same thing from dietitians and food service directors alike: Healthy habits begin at home.
I’ve told the following story before, maybe even in this space, but it bears repeating.
My children have been eating whole wheat bread since they were old enough to gum a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But one day, about five years ago, I bought a loaf of white bread to make turkey and dressing with.
I had more than a half loaf leftover and I didn’t want to waste it, so I decided to make Patrick’s lunch sandwich that day on white bread as a “treat.” When he got home from school that afternoon, I asked him how he liked his lunch.
“It was OK,” he said. “But next time, can you make my sandwich on that brown bread?”
That was music to my ears.
Here’s a recipe for a wrap my kids love to take to school. They’d eat it every day if I’d fix it.

Chicken Caesar Wraps
1 (7- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast
Mrs. Dash lemon pepper seasoning
1 big handful chopped Romaine lettuce
8 to 10 seasoned croutons (cut in half if they’re large)
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons light Caesar dressing
2 large whole wheat tortillas

Sprinkle chicken breast with Mrs. Dash. Grill or bake chicken breast until done. When cool enough to handle, chop into dice-sized cubes.
In a medium bowl, combine chicken, lettuce, croutons, cheese and dressing. Toss until thoroughly mixed.
Place half the chicken mixture at one end of tortilla and carefully roll it up. Slice in half and wrap pieces tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Repeat with second wrap.
Makes 2 wraps.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal