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Better Brown Bag Lunches
See also: Vitamins and Minerals: An Essential Part of Every Child's Diet
Healthy Eating Strategies
Understanding Balance and Moderation

You want to pack a lunch that's nutritious. Your child wants one that's fun and tastes good. Use these tips to make both of you happy. Then, try our Healthy Lunch Box Builder tool to see if your child is meeting his daily nutritional needs.

Start with variety. Try to pack something from each of the food groups in every lunch. Vary your choices and keep it interesting.

Feature favorites. Ask your child to make a list of favorites from each of the food groups, and rely on this for the basics.

Sandwich surprises. Go beyond peanut butter and jelly. Try low-fat lunch meats, cheeses, grilled vegetables and chicken, tuna and egg salads (extra points for using less or low-fat mayonnaise). And try not-so basic breads like bagels, rolls, pitas and English muffins. (Use whole-grain varieties wherever possible.)

Non-sandwich selections. Include pasta salad made with fun-shaped, tri-colored pasta. Create a mini-pizza on a tortilla or pita. Roll meat and cheese slices in a tortilla and slice into pinwheels.

Milk and more. Send milk money with your child each day. Otherwise, pack a Thermos. Choose cheese in all its forms: wedges, cubes and sticks. And yogurt and pudding cups are always appreciated for dessert.

Deluxe dips. Baby carrots, celery sticks, red and green pepper rings, zucchini wheels and cucumber slices are good, and even better when dipped in low-fat ranch dressing, salsa or hummus (chick pea dip). The fun continues with fruit. Sliced apples and pears, strawberries or grapes are all great dipped in any flavor of yogurt.

Pack a punch. Slip a surprise and a little love into lunches. Kids love an all-round lunch with foods that are all circles. An all-red lunch could feature spaghetti, red grapes, strawberry-flavored milk and red fruit leather. Backwards lunches include sandwiches with meat and cheese around a slice of bread and instructions (written in reverse?) to eat dessert first. Try cutting sandwiches into puzzle pieces or little circles.

Keep it hot and cool. For safety's sake, make sure hot foods stay hot and cold foods stay cold. Use an insulated lunch bag or kid-sized cooler. Include an ice pack or make one out of a frozen bottle of water or 100% juice box. A Thermos keeps soups, casseroles and chili hot and delicious.

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