Packing a healthy lunch for your kids -- that will actually be eaten and enjoyed -- is a challenge many parents face on a regular basis. Consider some new ideas that are easy to make, nutritious and fun to eat. You'll be happy to know your kids are enjoying a healthy and appealing meal at midday.
Sandwiches and Wraps
Use whole-grain breads and wraps as a healthy base for fun and delicious lunches. Instead of the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, or even a peanut butter and apple sandwich. Fill a whole-grain pita with hummus and crunchy veggies your child likes. Try low-fat sour cream, lettuce, salsa, brown rice and beans wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla. Make a healthy chicken salad with canned chicken, mayo, sliced grapes, pecans and dried cranberries to go along with a whole-grain wrap.
Make lunchtime fun with a bento-style lunch box filled with a variety of the finger foods kids love. Make healthy sandwiches on whole-grain bread, and use cookie-cutters to cut them into a variety of shapes. Add a variety of cut-up fruits and veggies and add dips to go along with them, such as hummus or yogurt. Make a honey-mustard dip to go along with a baked chicken breast you've cut into strips. Spread pizza sauce on a whole-grain tortilla and add low-fat mozzarella cheese. Then, melt the cheese, roll up the tortilla and slice it into bite-sized pieces. Add high-protein foods like string cheese, low-fat cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas and nuts.
Heat up leftovers from the healthy dinners your kids enjoy and pack them in an insulated thermos to keep them warm until lunchtime. Try leftovers like tortellini or ravioli with tomato sauce, vegetarian chili with beans and hearty chicken soup with brown rice and veggies. Add some baby carrots, applesauce and a hard-boiled egg. Don't forget to include some plastic utensils.
Dessert and Drinks
Instead of potato chips, cookies and sugary soft drinks, make lunch box desserts and drinks healthy, too. Make your own trail mix with sunflower seeds, nuts and dried fruits, or mix air-popped popcorn with nuts and raisins. Try apple slices with applesauce for dipping. Kids are more likely to eat an orange with lunch if you peel and section it. Fig bars are a better choice than many other cookies. Pack water or skim milk to drink along with lunch.
- ACE: How Can I Pack a Healthy Lunchbox Fro My Kids with Food They'll Actually Eat?
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Secrets to Making School Lunches Kids Won’t Want to Trade
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Think Inside the Lunch Box
- TeensHealth: Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
- PBS Parents: Inspiring School Lunch Ideas