Brown bag lunch doesn’t have to be boring or unhealthy — let your kids participate in planning lunches to inspire healthy choices and keep them at the head of the class. By Kari Walker • photo by robin may

Friday, Aug. 2, 2013

RMay_130722_9742Does the phrase “school lunch” remind you of days of mystery meat and soggy fruit cocktails? As parents we hope our kids are making it through the day with enough food in their bellies to power their brains, but often children can be picky eaters, and let’s face it: A pepperoni pizza and chocolate milk a day does not keep the doctor away. It sets up children for health problems and poor dietary choices in the future. Many parents are ready to eliminate overly processed foods from their family’s diets but are in search of inspiration — if you’re looking for ideas on packing a homemade, healthy lunch your child will enjoy, try these lunch box ideas:

A lunch container should be functional and fun — Most home goods stores carry divided reusable containers to pack a lunch — if your school offers a microwave, make sure the container will withstand the radiation. To make snacks fun, try something like this Snack Happened bag by Itzy Ritzy available at Paper Doll Studio ($12.99).

Back to basics — Try an apple but include some nut butter for dunking. Kids need healthy fats (like Omega 3) for brain development, and nut butters are good sources. Is your school nut-free? Sunflower seed butter is a nut alternative with a taste similar to peanut butter. Sunbutter ($6.99) is available at Rouses.

Replace a boring sandwich with a roll up — Start with your child’s favorite meat as the base filled with some more veggies and condiments. Try hummus, raw red pepper strips and cucumbers or guacamole and cherry tomatoes. Or, stuff it all inside a pita pocket for a twist. When selecting deli meats, go for a higher quality meat that is MSG- and gluten-free like the Columbus brand from Rouses.

Raw veggies are loaded with vitamins for learning — Carrots contain Vitamin A for vision, and broccoli has more Vitamin C than an orange, making it great for fending off illness.

Add a little life to veggies by including a dip your kids can help make. Plain Greek yogurt can take the place of sour cream and try adding the following for a healthier version of ranch:

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend (salt-free)
Salt & pepper to taste
Whisk yogurt, vinegar and spices in a bowl. If dressing is too thin, add 1/2 tablespoon additional yogurt to achieve desired thickness.

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