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More than half of American children prepare at least one weekly meal alone, according to a recent National Education Association survey.

Instead of giving a child a list of "don'ts" while you're away, Dr. Philip Zweiss, a Chicago pediatrician advises, "make time alone a learning opportunity. Use the occasion to reinforce your child's understanding of responsibility. Emphasize that your child is helping you care for the house until you return."He said it's very important to keep nutritious foods at hand for home-alone children - whole-grain bread, pretzels, low-fat bread spreads, yogurt, low-fat cookies and crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables cut and ready to eat.

Snacking accounts for up to 30 percent of calories and 25 percent of nutrients a child eats in an average day, Zweiss said.