Making school lunches fun – and nutritious

School lunches. The image those two words bring to mind is generally not very appetizing or exciting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re looking for some ways to brighten up your child’s lunch box, there are some easy things you can do. You can even get your child eating more fruits and vegetables. Not a cook? Don’t worry – the following tips require no cooking!

A child health educator with the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital, offers these suggestions:

Include different colors – Offer a variety of colorful raw veggies and fruit precut into pieces that fit little hands. We eat with our eyes first, so bright colors appeal to kids. Colorful fruits and veggies also provide more nutrition.
Think beyond bread – Instead of bread, offer peanut butter on apple slices or use whole grain crackers to make mini sandwiches.
Compartmentalize – Choose containers that have a few compartments (make sure your kids can open them). You can even find ones that have a special section for dressing or sauce.
Take bland to brilliant – Water is the best option for drinks. To add flavor, place some frozen fruit in a water bottle.
Sneaky smoothies – Make smoothies and freeze them in single-serve containers. Place the frozen smoothie in the lunch box in the morning and it should be thawed by lunchtime. Just shake and enjoy. Tip: Bananas can mask other flavors. Incorporate spinach and bananas, and you’ve got a really nutritious treat. Get smoothie recipes here.
Cookie cutter shapes – Make cheese and sandwiches more fun for a picky eater by cutting them into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
Dip into something different – Seven-layer dip using low-fat refried beans, sour cream and cheese can make a delicious option. Don’t forget to pack lighter tortilla chips!
Prep time hack – Sandwiches can be made ahead of time and frozen – really! Place peanut butter on both slices of bread and place jelly in the middle. Or try ham and cheese on a whole grain bagel (a little Miracle Whip freezes well). Wrap tightly in foil and place in a bag before placing in the freezer. Take it out the morning you wish to use it.
Fancy or basic, make sure that if you include meats, cheeses and milk products that you keep them cold until lunchtime. There are many different ice packs available – rigid and flexible – that will help keep food safe.

And have fun with lunch!

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