Best School Lunches Including Nutrition

Pack your youngster a healthy school lunch with nutrition and your special touches to show you care.

Kids are picky, and lunch time is short.

Parents want their children to spend the 20 minutes designated as lunch time in eating the food they prepared, not trading their lunches with other children, or throwing it in the trash receptacle. Parents also are looking for nutritious and healthy foods for their children, which causes somewhat of a dilemma, as children are notorious for hating what's good for them!

To ensure your child actually eats the health-conscious lunch you send, always makes sure you pack something you know they love, but try not to compromise nutrition with junk food. That will only ensure your child eats junk food. At the same time, do listen to your child and ask what he or she would like to eat during their lunch. Not everything is healthy and nutritious, but a treat now and again won't hurt. Perhaps a certain food, such as fruit, crackers, cheese, or vegetables, makes their face light up. If it does, make sure it makes an appearance every couple of days. Not enough to bore your child, but enough to make your child look forward to lunchtime.

Healthy, nutritious foods should appear in the lunch bag on a regular basis. They should also appear on the dinner table. Introducing your child to healthy, nutritious foods that taste good at an early age, will help your child to make good food selections when away from home.

If your child loves peaches, put diced peaches in pop-up containers or purchase the canned variety with the pop-up top. If it's watermelon they crave, buy seedless watermelon and cube it up. (Don't forget the fork.) If it's crackers, add several slices of cheese. If your child likes sour cream chip dip, send a container of dip along with several different vegetables. Cut the veggies in thin strips. Add a handful of pretzel sticks, or cubes of cheese.

Make the contents of your child's lunch more fun than what his friend at the lunch table has, and he'll eat it.

Remember, too, that sandwiches are good, but they have not cornered the market on lunches. Granola bars, Fruit roll-ups, finger gelatine, a box of raisins, and/or plain slices or cubes of roast beef or ham, and muffins are also welcome when lunch rolls around.

Granola bars-even though dipped in chocolate-aren't as bad as you might think. Use them sparingly, but use them. If your child loves finger gelatine, add fruit or vegetable pieces to the gelatine. Mix chocolate covered raisins, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, and Chex and other cereal for a nice trail mix. Muffins are great fillers, and, depending on what types of muffins you offer, can be very nutritious.

Bagels with cream cheese is another great lunch. Add fresh strawberries, either sliced and added to the sandwich, or in a sandwich bag. Use the small bagels and add variety. One bagel with peanut butter another with cream cheese.

Another good way to use cream cheese is in ham roll-ups. Layer cream cheese on a slice of ham, add a thin slice of cheese, or a stick of celery and roll the slice of ham around it. Chill and store in plastic baggies.

Peanut butter and jelly tops the list when it comes to favorite sandwiches. Peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches are good, too. Then, again, peanut butter and banana, and marshmallow are great.

For variation, try smearing peanut butter and marshmallow on a soft flour tortilla and rolling a banana up in it for a roll-up sandwich. Or, spread peanut butter and marshmallow inside a pita shell and add thin slices of banana. Yummy!

The traditional bologna, ham, tuna fish, and scrambled egg sandwiches might become boring in time. Make them fun. Use cookie cutters, or cut them into geometric shapes. Since most kids don't eat the crust, cutting the crust off in the beginning will save clean-up time later. And, sandwiches shaped like hearts, stars, flowers and hands and feet, are much more fun to eat than the conventionally shaped rectangular sandwich.

Muffins come in all flavors these days. Let your child choose which muffins he/she would prefer. If the muffins are homemade, add fruit to enhance their nutritional value. Finely chopped nuts are a good addition. However, nuts are not recommended for snacks as children can choke on them, and many children have allergies to nuts.

Juice boxes, frozen in advance and added to the lunch box, will keep foods that require refrigeration, cold until noon. Try a variety of juice flavors.

Other fun additions to a child's lunch are: Joey Sandwiches--pita bread stuffed with a variety of veggies, cheese and turkey or ham; caramel covered apples with a hunk of cheese; and yogurt with or without fruit. Leftover French toast is good cold. Simply cut into bite-sized pieces, or add jam and using two slices, form a sandwich. Hard-boiled eggs and carrot and cucumber circles, or a slice or two of pizza can be the perfect lunch. Forget the myth that items such as pizza has to be warmed up. The only item in my book that needs to be warmed up is soup, anything else goes!

If your child is a cereal eater, pack a small box of individually wrapped cereal and a juice box. The child can use his/her milk and dump it right into the cardboard box bowl and drink the juice instead of milk. Remember the spoon!

I do not recommend sending a thermos filled with soup. Sometimes a thermos can be hard to open. That could leave the child high and dry-no lunch, or wet and crying-with hot soup spilled all over him when he finally opened the thermos. Also, not all thermoses are made equal. Some containers keep the soup extremely hot, while others do not contain enough heat.

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