7 tips for simple school lunches

Simple doesn't need to be boring. Check out these ideas for some that might work for your kids.

Kids are back to school and families are back in the bustle of daily life. It’s easy to let good nutrition slip for the sake of convenience. Don’t resort to school lunches with processed, packaged foods or having them buy lunch every day. Try these tips.

  • Pack school lunches with a reusable ice pack, or freeze a small bottle of water or box of 100 percent juice. It will keep the food cold and turn into a slushy drink by lunchtime.
  • Leftover pasta makes for a great salad. Mix cold whole wheat pasta with lean meat, low-fat cheese and veggies. Toss with a light vinaigrette.
  • Salad options truly are endless. Add variety with chopped hard-boiled egg, black beans, light cheese, berries, lean meats, sunflower seeds, chow mein noodles, and sliced almonds or other nuts. Send light dressing in a separate small container to keep salad fresh.
  • Use multigrain flour tortillas to make all kinds of wrap creations. Spread with hummus, light dressing or pesto and your kids’ favorite meats and/or veggies. Or try a cold pizza wrap with sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. Roll it up and wrap in foil.
  • Jazz up the old standby, peanut butter, by spooning 2 tablespoons into a reusable container. Pack it along with whole wheat crackers, pita wedges or celery, carrot or jicama sticks.
  • Find the fruits and veggies your kids enjoy and pack them up! Fruit salads, sugar snap peas, and carrots are classic favorites. If eating vegetables is not your child’s favorite, add 1 tablespoon of low-fat or fat-free ranch dressing or hummus in a separate container for a little flavor boost.
  • Don’t forget a string cheese stick. OK, so it’s prepackaged, but many low-fat varieties are available. They are a good source of protein and calcium that kids can’t resist.

Many schools have guidelines for lunches brought from home. Be sure to stay in the loop of what should, and shouldn’t, be in the bag.