Get your child ready for school with fun, healthy lunch ideas

Packing lunches can be a chore – but you can spice it up with these helpful tips!

With summer coming to an end, kids and parents are beginning to think about getting back into the daily school routine.  One of those daily routines includes the challenge of packing lunches.  If you’re like me, this job can be tedious and after a while, I struggle to find lunches that are fun and healthy for every day.

Sandwiches are a standby for lunches.  Peanut butter or meat-filled are the predictable choices that after a while, become boring.  Sandwiches can become exciting by changing the filling or presentation.  Try some of these sandwich enhancing tips:

  • Use a colorful wrap or a whole wheat pita instead of bread.  Stuff the wrap with lean meat, low-fat cheese and add some veggies. 
  • Make sandwiches into fun shapes by using a cookie cutter.
  • Pack whole grain crackers with a sandwich filler to let your child “build their own sandwich.”

Another way to add excitement to your child’s lunch is to move beyond the sandwich and offer different types of a main course. 

  • Heat up low-sodium soups in the morning to fill a thermos.  This can be a great way to add more vegetables to your child’s meal.
  • Cook once – eat twice.  Recreate last night’s dinner into a new lunch.  Chop up last night’s chicken and roll it in a tortilla or serve it on a salad (if your child likes that.)  Or serve last night’s dinner in a microwave dish that your child can reheat at school.

Michigan State University Extension recommends powering up children’s lunches by skipping the high fat, high sodium chips and selecting fruits or vegetables loaded with nutrients that may kids miss each day.

  • Put the original fast-food in their lunches – whole fruit, such as a banana, pear or peach.
  • Slice up the apple in the morning (dip in lemon juice so it won’t brown) and bag.  Serve with peanut butter for dipping.
  • Trail mix is a weekend project you and your children can make together.  Add dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and mix.  Bag them up for an energizing side dish or an after school treat.
  • Chop up vegetables the night before and pack them in the morning.  If your child needs a dip for their vegetables, try hummus or low-fat ranch dressing. 

The internet is filled with great ideas on how to zest up your child’s lunch.  My Plate.gov is a great resource for information on serving sizes and ways to make sure your children get the best possible nutrition.  You can also log into social media like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to join groups with other parents who share ways to add variety and health to their children’s lunches.  Select ideas that emphasize increased fruit, vegetable, fiber and lean meat consumption.  These choices will make sure your child gets the nutrients needed to power them all day.

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