How do you pack a school lunch that's healthy, but has enough kid appeal that even the pickiest eater won't trade it or toss it? In general, focus on foods that are low in sugar, trans fats, and high-fructose corn syrup, but provide plenty of brain-boosting vitamins and minerals—and a dash of fun. Here are some packed-lunch ideas to keep your conscience clear and your children satisfied.
Switch carb-loaded bread out for pairs of crisp apple slices, filling the space between with your choice of cheese, almond butter, or peanut butter. (Check the rules regarding peanut products at your child's school.) Applewiches are a good source of brain-friendly vitamin B6, protein, and folic acid. If you're using a nut spread, mix a few raisins in for a sweet surprise that adds fiber and iron.
Colorful veggies & hummus
Kids love to dip. And if they're dipping raw vegetables into calcium-rich, uber-healthy hummus, so much the better. If hummus doesn't pass your child's taste test, pack some low-fat ranch dressing. For dippers, try crunchy slices of cucumber, carrot sticks, slices of red pepper, or sugar snap peas.
Cheese wheel & crackers
Pump some calcium and protein into those growing bones by putting a fun spin on cheese and crackers. Individually packaged cheese mini- wheels travel well, and are fun to open and eat. (Check the ingredients to be sure you're getting a real, rather than processed, cheese product.) Add whole-wheat crackers and you're good to go.
Kids love lots of little items at their disposal. Tossing a yogurt "squeezer" (Greek yogurt packs more protein) or prepackaged fruit smoothie in with lunch is easy to do and keeps calcium, protein, and B12 flowing. Look for brands and flavors with less sugar.