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Italy fits in the lunchbox

(zara tzanev for the boston globe)

Early September can be a bittersweet time for kids heading back to school. A box of cookies from A & L Italian Bakery ($5 a pound) is certain to lift the post-summer blues, at least temporarily. The unassuming, family-owned shop opened in East Boston almost 30 years ago, says Maria Gnerre, who works there with her parents and brother. Mother Rita bakes the cookies, which include traditional biscotti, cushiony coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate, buttery walnut cookies, and glazed Italian rounds called snowballs. So stick some in the lunchboxes and hope the cookies help ease the transition from summer to school. A & L Italian Bakery, 330 Sumner St., East Boston, 617-569-7597. - LEIGH BELANGER

Fun with frozen yogurt
School is back in session, and with it the timeless tradition of after-school snacking. That's where Mark Nguyen's new frozen yogurt venture, modeled after the Korean-style shops that are so popular in California, comes in. "It's like a wildfire out in LA right now," owner Nguyen reports. The 23-year-old owner of Yo! Berry was born and raised in Boston, but his family is from Vietnam; he says his flavors are the "same as what you'd get at a mom-and-pop yogurt shop" there, too, though the Vietnamese version is not served frozen. The dishes of plain ($2.50 to $6) and green tea ($3.50 to $8) yogurts are not run-of-the-mill: The plain won't be mistaken for overly sweet vanilla, and the green tea has the distinctive taste of matcha powder. Any of more than a dozen embellishments, from fresh mango or kiwi to crunchy cereal or chocolate chips (95 cents each or $1.45 for 3), can go on top. As a nod to Nguyen's Boston roots, all of his workers - mostly family members - wear Red Sox caps behind the counter. "Frozen yogurt," says Nguyen, "I don't see why it should be so serious." Yo! Berry is in the 88 Food Connection International Food Court at 1095 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617-779-8888. - EMILY SCHWAB

Have granola, bicycle optional
You don't have to be watching your waistline to enjoy a low-fat snack that tastes good. Chappaqua Crunch Granola ($3.69 for a 13-ounce bag) is made with 100 percent natural ingredients and is trans fat free. This blend of whole grain oats, puffed rice, and dried fruit comes in a variety of flavors, from raspberry to raisin. You can mix it with yogurt, but it's also great straight out of the bag. Proving that charity can be a tasty affair, Debbie Waugh, founder of the company that makes the granola, donates about 1,000 pounds of the organic mix to the Pan-Mass Challenge every year. More than 5,000 bicyclists participate in the Challenge, which raises millions for the Jimmy Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Whether you're on wheels or not, it's a healthy snack for anybody on the go. Available at select Shaw's, Whole Foods, and Stop & Shop supermarkets. - JEFF MIRANDA

Nectarine dream
If your children are waging a war against fruits and vegetables that rivals the former President Bush's campaign against broccoli, Sunshower Nectarine Juices ($3.49 for 12 ounces) may hold the key to a peace treaty. One-hundred percent juice, this beverage is pressed from nectarines and lightly sweetened with Sucralose (the same calorie-free sugar derivative found in Splenda). Go the purist's route with all nectarine, or choose from blends with berries or mango. With 20 percent fewer calories, Sunshower is a low-acid, high-vitamin C alternative to orange juice. Better yet, an 8-ounce glass contains two full servings of fruit - perfect for kids who tend to toss lunch time's carrot sticks in favor of potato chips and cookies. Available in the produce department of Star Market, 1 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-566-5858, and 275 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-354-7023. - KAROLINE BOEHM GOODNICK

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