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Pack fun, healthy lunches for your child

By By Lyn Lomasi, Contributing writer
Published On: Sep 07 2011 08:00:19 AM CDT
Updated On: Sep 03 2013 10:12:21 AM CDT
school lunch

©iStockphoto.com/Juanmonino

If your child thinks "healthy" is another word for "boring," it's time to pack lunches that spice things up while still maintaining a healthy, nutritional edge. Here are some tips for doing just that.

Think Portable

The perfect lunch for kids needs to be portable. While a bowl of whole wheat spaghetti noodles topped with homemade marinara sauce may be fun, tasty and healthy, it isn't exactly the easiest lunch for a child to carry, nor is there a way to heat it up come lunchtime. When choosing lunches, choose items that can fit into plastic bags or Tupperware, are light in weight, and require little to no preparation. MamasHealth.com suggests avoiding things like eggs, meat, mayonnaise and yogurt if no refrigeration will be available. There's also the alternative of placing a freezer bag in with the lunch, provided the container and contents are waterproof and leakproof.

Think Fun

Kids like to play with their food. It's just a fact of life that parents have to deal with. You might as well make the food even more desirable and fun. Cheese wedges can be cut into fun shapes using small cookie cutters. The same can be done with Jell-o, sandwich squares and other soft food items. Characters from favorite television shows can also be fun; some healthy foods feature characters on the packages. Also, placing little personal notes or surprises in with a child's lunch can make him or her feel special.

Think Healthy

Water is the healthiest drink. However, some kids won't go for that every day. According to MSNBC.com, some healthful options for packing the perfect lunch include 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, low-fat milk, or lightly sweetened tea. Bread can sometimes get smashed. Try packing crackers, cheese and lean meat in small plastic containers. Kids can create sandwiches from those. If your kids won't part ways with peanut butter and jelly, try a 100 percent fruit spread. Tuna is another healthful sandwich option that can be used with either crackers or bread. Try mixing celery and carrots in with the tuna salad to get in those veggie servings. Raisins, carrot sticks, cheese cubes, sliced fruit, pretzels and trail mix (unsalted, unsweetened) can all make healthy-but-fun sides.

Don't Forget Yummy

Unless you want that lunch coming back home untouched with a hungry kid, the perfect lunch needs to also be tasty. One way to do this is to let the kids pick what they like from a list of healthy items. Even let them come to the store and shop for the preselected items themselves.

Add variety

The perfect lunch is not going to be the same exact lunch every day. For the best results, be sure to mix up choices.

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