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Fun and Easy Lunchbox Ideas

The Classic Sandwich

Transform your child’s classic sandwich into a healthier meal by switching to whole wheat bread. To maximize the nutritional value of your sandwich, check the food label and ingredients list, and opt for bread that provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and preferably without high fructose corn syrup. White whole wheat bread is readily available for picky eaters who refuse to eat regular whole wheat bread. Diversify your sandwich bread by using toast, bagels, pita bread, small baguettes or ciabatta loaves. Choices for your child’s sandwich fillings are endless. Fill it with low-fat cheese, roasted turkey, hummus or scrambled eggs. Don’t forget to include a wide variety of vegetables in your sandwich such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes or cucumber slices.

Fun With Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition, they are nutrient-dense foods that provide a great nutritional value for a limited amount of calories. A little creativity can go a long way in making fruits and veggies a fun part of your child’s lunchbox. Here are some ideas: Baby carrots and broccoli florets with low-fat ranch dressing Cucumber slices cut into star shapes (or any other shape you like) with a healthy alternative to mayonnaise, tofu herb dressing Steamed edamame Celery sticks or apple slices with peanut butter Strawberries, cherries or grapes with plain yogurt.

Healthy Alternatives to Unhealthy Favorites

Does your child insist on having chips in his lunchbox? No problem! Satisfy your kids’ cravings in a healthy way by choosing “baked” chips, unsalted popcorn or “veggie” chips instead of fried varieties. Better yet, make chips at home by cutting up whole wheat tortillas, seasoning them with fresh herbs and toasting in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil -- thereby cutting down on your child’s intake of salt and saturated fats. Likewise, make your own low-sugar granola bars using toasted oats, dried fruits (raisins, dates, prunes and cranberries) and nuts (almonds, walnuts and pecans). When choosing a “treat” for your child’s lunchbox, think of dark chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal brownies, bran muffins or fruit tarts.

Hydration

Adequate hydration is essential for children. Make sure your child meets her hydration needs by including a healthy beverage in her lunchbox. Skip the soda and sports drinks, and opt for regular or chocolate milk, water or 100 percent juice (check the label to make sure no sugar has been added).

Get the Kids Involved

Always get your kids involved in shopping for and preparing their lunchboxes, meals and snacks. Depending on your child’s age, you might let him stuff a sandwich, measure and stir ingredients, wash produce or cut up fruits and vegetables.

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