How to pack healthy school lunches that kids like
- Keep the rule of half in mind.
Fruits and veggies pack a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The USDA recommends filling half your plate with them at each meal. Incorporate produce into main courses, snacks and desserts to up your family’s nutritional ante.
- Think outside the (lunch) box.
Discover the fun variety of bento-style boxes available online. Small compartments add eye appeal and allow you to pack fruits and veggies in perfect lunch portions. Silicone muffin cups offer a colorful, reusable alternative. And don’t forget the Thermos for soups or fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Kids love color. At the grocery store, farmers market or kitchen counter, get them involved in selecting a vibrant palette of fruits and veggies. Little ones are more likely to eat the foods they help choose, and the bright variety of produce is chock-full of healthy phytonutrients.
With a little creativity, fruits and veggies can fly under the radar. Shred or finely dice vegetables for soups and sauces. Bake zucchini muffins or banana bread (sub applesauce for oil). Dried fruits and veggie crisps count, too.
- Shape up your presentation.
With kids, presentation is key. Transform watermelon slices with cookie cutters. Slice apples or pineapple into rings. Cut V shapes as you hull strawberries to make hearts, or create long, thin cucumber noodles or spiral veggies for finger-friendly snacks.
Enliven crudité with dressing, hummus or salsa. Pair apple slices with peanut or almond butter. (Know your school’s nut policy). Turn berries into dessert with a dab of chocolate syrup, cream cheese or yogurt-based dips. Mini cups with lids, purchased from a restaurant supply store, make perfect leak-resistant containers for dips and spreads.
- Pack with assembly required.
Skip the sandwich and pack a personal salad or taco bar with ingredients kids can combine. Send lettuce to wrap lean turkey or cheese, or pack mini pocket pitas to house sliced veggies.
Keep lunch safe with an insulated container. The USDA recommends including two cold sources (frozen gel pack, fruit juice box or water bottle). For hot items, warm a Thermos with boiling water before adding food and sealing tightly.
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