Lunchbox Blues? Healthy Kid-friendly Foods

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It’s Thursday night and we’ve all been here before, standing in the kitchen in front of the refrigerator, deciphering what to pack for our kid’s next day lunch. Only one more weekday left. Can we make it?

Healthy lunches look good to the adult eye and sound good on paper, but often our kid-friendly quinoa salad isn’t so kid friendly. Our lovingly packed food ends up in the trash or swapped out for something far more processed and lackluster.
When it comes to packing a lunch that looks good enough to munch and packs a nutritious punch, we could all use a hand. Here are a few ideas to make your lunchbox more popular in the kid cafeteria.

Kids Can Help
Getting your child involved in the prep stage of meal-making may get them eating, especially if they know they made the finished product. When a child is part of the lunch-making process, they’ll take pride in their work and will be more enticed to eat their masterpiece when it’s done.

Change It Up
Little Lauren likes her Barbie lunch box, but last year it took a beating. Switch out lunchboxes for a different feel and look. Just like a new pair of shoes makes kids want to skip to class, a new lunchbox adds a little spunk to your little one’s lunch. Buy a few new plastic storage keepers in your child’s favorite colors or superhero pattern. Bento boxes are great to keep food separated and proportioned well, and picky eaters like the colorful choices. If your child does lunch brown-bag style, offer to buy different colored bags or have your little one do some artwork to make his unique.

Keep it Simple
Some of the healthiest foods look the most pleasing to the eye and are the easiest to make. That’s because healthy food is usually free of dyes, colors and artificial flavors. Reaching for overly processed items in vending machines and the school cafeteria is not just costly, the food is filled with sugars, salt and empty calories. The best choices come from basic foods you already have at home. Pack the portable classics such as peanut butter crackers, string cheese, apples, bananas, yogurt and trail mix. And don’t forget the good ol’ Ants on a Log. Spread celery sticks with peanut butter and sprinkle raisins on top.

Perfect Packing Tips
Soggy sammies are so last year. To prevent mush, pack separate zip-top bags of tomato slices, cheese and bread, and kids can assemble the sandwiches just before eating. Try toasting the bread beforehand to keep it crisp.

Just because you want your little one to have a healthy lunch doesn’t mean you have to skimp on fun and taste. Sweet treats are fine as long as they aren’t mega-size. Packing a pre-portioned goody such as brownies or cookies saves calories in the long run, and kids won’t feel deprived as they head into the afternoon.

Let’s face it; even the most prepared moms get a little flustered trying a pack a nutritious and attractive lunch every day of the week. But as we head back to school once again, a little change could do us good. By taking a new approach and keeping a new idea or two up your sleeve, you might keep your heartfelt packed lunch from ever being traded again. HLM

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Kid-Munching Recipes
Try these ideas to add a little punch to your lunch this fall!

Turkey and Cheese Quesadilla
In a medium pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add an 8-inch whole grain tortilla. On one half of the tortilla, layer some cooked turkey or chicken, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar and a few sliced green or red peppers. Fold over the other half of the tortilla and flip to brown each side and melt cheese.

Nix the old peanut butter and jelly for more creative versions. Just swap jelly for dried cherries or other dried fruit. If your child goes to a nut-free school or is allergic to peanut butter, use sunflower butter instead. Or skip the bread all together. Core a small green apple; slice into six small circles. Brush with lemon to prevent browning. Divide some peanut or almond butter and several raisins among three apple slices. Sandwich together with remaining slices and you’ve got an entirely different entree.

Creamy Banana Sammie
Kids will start asking for this bread and spread concoction. Spread two tablespoons of whipped cream cheese on two slices of whole-grain bread. Top with sliced banana. Sprinkle on a little cinnamon for a spicy version.

Cheddar Apple Sandwich
The taste of cheese and fruit isn’t just for adults. Kids like apples and cheese, so when the two are combined you’ll get rave reviews rather than yawns. On a small whole-grain roll, layer two thin slices of cheddar cheese with three thin slices of apple. Serve with baby carrots.