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Volume II
October 7, 2006

Bag Lunches

By Jennifer Anderson

It's time to start thinking about packing school lunches again. This ordeal always presents a challenge for parents and kids alike. Parents want to provide their pride and joy with nourishing meals that will keep them healthy and thriving through the afternoon. Kids want to bring lunches that will be the envy of all their friends, and that they can eat quickly enough to have some time left over for the playground. There must be a way to make everyone happy (and healthy).

Mix and Match

It's important to get some input from your kids when it comes to school lunches, because, when lunchtime comes around, you won't be there to say "three more bites before you can leave the table!" Ultimately, your children will decide whether they're going to eat all of their lunch, so it's better to pack something that they enjoy than have the food you packed end up in the cafeteria garbage can. Most kids love "interactive" food-dipping fruit, vegetables, crackers or bread in sauces and spreads; assembling miniature cheese and cracker sandwiches; or making tiny fruit kebabs on toothpicks. Give them some choices from each food group, and allow them to mix and match for a nutritionally balanced lunch. The perfect bag lunches should include enough variety to keep your kids from getting bored, but don't be surprised if they settle on a few favorites and request them week after week. Kids like to have a few familiar, comforting things nearby when they are away from home.

Variety is the Spice of Lunch

Fruits and vegetables should be small and easy to eat, like grapes, cherries, small plums, blueberries, melon cubes, baby carrots, cucumber slices, bell pepper wedges and lightly steamed broccoli florets. Beyond sliced bread, try crackers, pita bread, corn bread, muffins, baked tortilla chips, mini bagels, tortillas or even pasta salad. For protein, there's good ol' peanut butter, but the kids might also enjoy hummus, bean dip, sliced cheese, yogurt, cold cuts, tuna salad, egg salad or a thermos full of chili. When serving tuna, egg or chicken salad, mix in shredded carrots, apples, zucchini, bell peppers, raisins, nuts-anything to add nutrition and fiber without adding lots of empty calories. With such a hearty and nutritious lunch that you know your kids will love, you can even feel good about slipping a cookie or a brownie into the bag. School lunch will never be boring again!

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