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Lunch Box Ideas

Remember that children of all ages respond to peer pressure and may not eat foods away from home that they would at home. Sometimes this turns out for the child's best interests. With friends, most children will eat or experiment with new foods that they would not touch at home, even with parents urging and role modeling, Take advantage of this opportunity. Find out what other children are eating when your child must "carry" food. Even very young children "share" the contents of their lunch boxes, and few people want to be so different as to stand out. Include one new food or one less favorite food with foods you know your child will eat.

The lunch box or bag should contain a variety of foods, shapes, and textures – the same as meals at home. However, some foods pack and travel better than others. Be aware also that flavors from one food can overshadow a less flavorful one if kept in a closed container together.

Usually children will prefer foods that can be eaten with their fingers. This makes fruit, raw vegetables, and sandwiches well suited for the lunch box. Occasionally sending soup or chili (especially in the winter) in a thermos can improve lagging appetites.

Even though sandwiches are the traditional lunch choices, other high-protein options include turkey or chicken slices or nuggets, meatloaf, hard cooked eggs, and cheese slices, chunks, or sticks.

If you choose to send sandwiches, instead of using regular bread, try using pita pockets, rice cakes, tortillas, muffins, bagels, English muffins, or raisin bread. Experiment with different fillings for the sandwiches: peanut butter and grated carrots, mashed bananas, or raisins; cheeses other than just American; various cooked vegetable purees or fruit purees mixed with low-fat cream cheese; and mixtures of meats, chicken, or tuna fish that includes raw fruits and vegetable pieces to give that extra crunch.

One note of caution about using mixtures of foods in the summertime. Unless the lunch can be refrigerated until eaten, you must be very careful to send only those foods and mixtures that will not spoil easily. This means avoiding mixtures with salad dressing, mayonnaise, or egg- or milk-based sauces.

Cut sandwiches in small (1/4 slice of bread) pieces or strips for easy handling. Or be creative by using various cookie cutters to create sandwiches in the shape of hearts, stars, or even Mickey Mouse or other animals.

Raw fruits and vegetables are great to include. Make them easy to eat by cutting in small pieces, peeling off the skin, etc. For treats, oatmeal raisin or peanut butter cookies, graham or animal crackers, vanilla wafers or fruited mini-muffins can add much nutritional value. In addition, there are many commercial single serving products available, such as Jell-0®, puddings, fruit sauces, sliced fruits, etc. Each comes in its own container, which can be thrown away or recycled after the food is eaten.

Don't forget to include a surprise -- either a favorite food or a note, sticker, or cartoon -- anything that says, "You are special and I care for you." Your child and his or her friends will look forward to your lunches packed with such love and nutrition.


From Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents. Copyright 1995 by Sandra K. Nissenberg, Margaret L. Bogle, and Audrey C. Wright. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

To order this book visit www.wiley.com.


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