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Is your son or daughter tired of the same old lunch box routine? Are monotonous lunches looming over your child? It’s easy to get stuck putting the same things in your child’s lunch day after day, but bringing lunch from home doesn’t have to get boring. Here are some strategies for packing healthful (interesting) meals your child will actually eat.
Try something besides peanut butter and jelly.
With peanut butter banned from many schools and cafeterias because of the increasing number of children who have peanut allergies, try serving up one of the following combinations on whole wheat bread:
- Cream cheese and cucumbers, sprinkled with salt and pepper
- Hummus, cucumber, and crumbled feta cheese
- Sliced cheese, cream cheese, shredded carrot and walnuts, sprinkled with salt and pepper
Think Beyond the Sandwich.
Try wrapping different sandwich ingredients in a tortilla (you can even try the flavored ones). Our favorites include:
- Pizza Wrap: Spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese, sliced pepperoni
- Chicken club: Shredded chicken, crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, and light ranch dressing
- Veggie: Cream cheese, crisp lettuce, sliced tomato, shredded cheese, with Italian dressing.
Make it Nosh.
Nosh is another word for a snack or light meal. The purpose of lunch is to provide healthy food to fill your child’s stomach until dinner. Why must it always include a sandwich? Fill your child’s lunch with their favorite (healthy) things to eat, such as:
- Portable yogurt
- Sliced fruit
- Lunch meat rolled up with cheese
- Veggie sticks with dip
- Cheese and crackers
- Tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip
- Pita chips with hummus dip
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruits
Make it Hot.
Some children prefer a hot meal at lunch time. While it does take a little more morning prep, it’s worth it knowing your child is more likely to eat his or her lunch. Invest in a small, good quality thermos. In the morning before school, fill the thermos with boiling water and tighten the lid. This preheats the thermos and helps keep the food warm until lunch time. Next, heat the lunch in the microwave until it’s very hot. Carefully empty the boiling water, and fill with the hot food. Your child will get the benefit of eating a warm lunchtime meal that didn’t come from the cafeteria. Try including:
- Macaroni and cheese
- Spaghetti or pasta and sauce
- Leftover dinner, such as pot pie or casseroles
- Bean dip for chips or tortillas
- Cheese sauce for veggies or pita triangles
- Refried beans, rice, and cheese for a make-your-own burrito
Don’t Forget Dessert.
Who doesn’t want to end each meal on a sweet note? Despite our best intentions when packing our child’s lunch, there is a good chance your child will trade his or her healthy offerings for bags of chips, homemade cookies, or even cans of soda. Try to circumvent this possibility by including something sweet for your child in each lunch. A cookie, brownie, small piece of cake, or other goodie will help send the message to your child that moderation is key. Sweet things can be a part of a healthy diet as long as your child eats nutritious food as well. Talk with your children about making sure they eat all the items in their lunch and not just the sweet or salty ones. If your child knows a sweet snack is waiting in the lunch box, it lessens the chance he or she will try to barter one of the healthy options for an unhealthy one.
Lunch time should be a time for kids to energize their minds and bodies as well as socialize with others. Providing fun and healthful choices for kids goes a long way to having your child look forward to eating his or her lunch. Thinking outside the box may take a few minutes at the beginning, but after awhile, you’ll be amazed how many things you can pack for lunch that you may not have thought of before. We’ve included even more inspirational lunch ideas for you in the links below. Happy eating!