The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge asks kids, ages 8-12, to submit healthy original lunch recipes. The winners will be flown to Washington, D.C., for a Kids' State Dinner.

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Young chefs from across the country can head to the kitchen and start whipping up healthy recipes for a chance to represent their state at the White House this summer.

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is designed to change what kids perceive as good food and promote healthy eating. First lady Michelle Obama is partnering with Epicurious, an informational website about food, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host the third annual nationwide recipe challenge. The contest challenge calls on chefs ages 8-12 to generate recipes that are healthy, easy and cheap. Out of thousands of recipes, judges will choose 56 by children from each of the U.S. states and territories.

Sandipa Singh's daughter Shefali, now 13, represented Massachusetts last year with a seven-ingredient spring roll and peanut sauce recipe called Shefali's Scrumptious Spring Rolls. Singh, of Falmouth, said she has been cooking with Shefali since she was young.

"It goes beyond being healthy, but to have the child in the kitchen with the parents and learning how to cook a meal for themselves that doesn't have to be gourmet," Sign said.

The recipe challenge is part of Obama's Let's Move! initiative and seeks to make healthy eating a part of parents' everyday routine with their children.

"It's inspiring families to cook more with their kids and put kids as leaders to drive healthy dishes at home," said Sam Kass, executive director of Let's Move! and one of the judges for the competition

The winners will be flown to Washington, D.C., for the White House Kids' State Dinner this summer where they have the chance to mingle with the president and first lady and try other kids' healthy recipes. After the event, the winning recipes are uploaded into a free online cookbook, so they can be re-created by families everywhere. According to Kass, the online cookbook has another benefit: "The recipes are simple and already kid-tested and approved."

The recipes must be original and half of the plate or recipe should be fruits or vegetables. Recipes can be submitted now through April 5th, online at recipechallenge.epicurious.com.

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health and nutrition advocacy organization, said the competition highlights Obama's bigger message of promoting healthy eating in schools across the country.

"A lot of children eat the majority of their meals at school, and this is a fun, visible way to promote and cultivate healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime when they start early," Wootan said.

According to Wootan, one of the most important guidelines of the challenge is that the recipe must be inexpensive. A common misconception is that healthy eating is more expensive, but according to a 2012 Department of Agriculture study many times fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods are less expensive than foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Wootan said in many schools working toward providing nutritious school lunches, the key is getting children involved. Like the national healthy lunch competition, local schools are also offering incentives such as taste testing and recipe competitions. They also offer kids multiple healthy choices.

"It's about engaging children, so they can go back and talk about it and spread the word that nutrition can be healthy and appealing," Wootan said.

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