Packing Healthy and Fun School Lunches

Health, Home & Family
on August 19, 2001

Lunch may be your childs favorite school subject, but how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can one kid eat?

Fortunately, lunch doesnt have to be limited to cold sandwiches and carrot sticks. Be creative and flexible, and youll find it much easier to incorporate the five major groups of the U. S. Department of Agricultures food pyramid in your childs lunch.

The key: Pack foods both healthy and interesting enough to spark your childs appetite. Encourage your childs suggestions; studies show that kids involved in their lunch preparation are far more likely to eat everything in their lunch box.

Ask your child to help you pack their lunch so that they can choose the healthy foods theyll eat, agrees Sue Frederick, author of A Mothers Guide to Raising Healthy Children Naturally.

These fun and healthy choices wont be traded at lunchtime, says dietitian Jill Shuman, a nutrition lecturer at Tufts University:

  • Make whole-grain breads more appealing to younger children by using animal cookie cutters. If your child likes only processed white bread, introduce whole grain bread gradually by making sandwiches with one slice of each. Try whole-wheat pita pockets stuffed with a favorite sandwich filling.
  • Make cheese sandwiches of low-fat vegetable (or your childs favorite) crackers and cheese spread. Use sliced olives or mini gherkin-style pickles to make faces or designs on crackers.
  • Baked tortilla chips are a great low-fat option for potato chips.
  • Add a mild salsa for a colorful, zippy way to add vegetables to lunch.
  • Pasta salads are fun when made with wagon-wheel or other fancy pasta. Add chopped celery, apple, and pickles for variety.
  • Add sliced fruits such as banana or apple to peanut butter for tasty sandwiches. Or, spread a cored and sliced apple with crunchy peanut butter.
  • Mix up a batch of dried fruits for snacks. Try cherries, cranberries, banana chips, and pineapple.
  • Onion dip made with low-fat sour cream makes stuffed celery appealing. This also is a good dipping sauce for wheat crackers, carrots, and celery sticks.
  • Carrot-raisin salad is a colorful treat when made with shredded carrots, raisins, honey, and a little lemon juice.
  • Make a tasty trail mix by combining crunchy whole-grain cereal squares, pretzel sticks, peanuts, and raisins.
  • Creating weekly menus ahead of time can take the hassle out of lunch preparation, especially when your child participates. Consider packing lunch the night before if mornings are too hectic. Most sandwiches keep well.