Healthy Lunch Ideas Your Kids Will Actually Enjoy

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Does your kid trade his healthy lunches for junk food? Here are 10 tips for packing lunches that your kid will eat.

You know the scenario: You or your nanny pack a healthy lunch for your child, send it off to school and most of it comes back home--or worse, is tossed or traded for snacks that your little one knows are taboo. So, what are some of the best healthy lunch ideas for kids?

Follow these ten tips for packing a healthy lunch from Sylvia Klinger, a registered dietitian, child nutrition specialist and author of the bestselling The Sneaky Chef book series, and you'll rule at the lunch table:
 

  1. Make the Right Mix
    A balanced lunch is essential for growing kids--and for adults! A balanced lunch should include at least three food groups, and a snack should have at least two food groups, recommends Klinger. Try packing your kid's lunchbox with low-sodium turkey slices, apple wedges, and whole-grain crackers. "Eating balanced meals provides the nutrition kids need and gives them more energy," she says.
     
  2. Ask Kids to Help 
    Teach your kids healthy lunch ideas by making meals together. Klinger says, "Cooking develops an appreciation for delicious healthy foods." And your kid will be able to eat something it helped create!
     
  3. Shop Together
    When you take the family grocery shopping, read the nutrition labels. Let your kid choose the fruits and veggies when you shop, and pack them into lunch-sized servings at home.
     
  4. Add Veggies to Favourite Foods
    Sometimes you have to add the veggies into something kids love to eat. Your little one loves mac and cheese, so try adding a puree made from sweet potatoes and carrots into the mix.
     
  5. Make It Dippable
    Your kid may be more willing to eat veggies when served with dip. It adds a burst of flavour and the fun of dunking the veggies into the dip. Klinger suggests mixing 1 cup of light cream cheese with 1/2 cup of reduced-fat mayonnaise, and spreading the mixture in a bowl. Then layer salsa, chopped tomatoes and low-fat shredded cheese. Add a few tablespoons of the dip to the lunchbox.
     
  6. Presentation Is Key
    Experts suggest buying your kid a cute bento box--a container with compartments to separate foods--to make lunch more of an event. Use small cookie cutters to cut foods into cute shapes.
     
  7. Let Kids Create
    Your kid can make a unique salad by adding sliced strawberries, sweet red peppers, cucumbers or other favorite veggies to lettuce for a sweet salad that's also nutritious. One of Klinger's favorite lunches is filling a large leaf of lettuce with a tablespoon of yellow corn, black beans, cubed chicken or ham and low-fat shredded cheddar cheese to make a fun lettuce sandwich.
     
  8. Don't Forget a Treat
    Give your kid healthier versions of popular junk food so it doesn't feel left out from what it considers 'the good stuff'. Try making your own brownies using carob, blueberries, oats or wheat germ--your kid won't even miss the added sugar and fat!
     
  9. Surprise Your Kid
    Include one "surprise" veggie in your kid's lunch box each week. Something it may not have eaten before or doesn't eat often. This is a great way to introduce new foods and pique curiosity in a fun way.
     
  10. Be a Role Model
    And while it sounds cliché, set an example by packing your own healthy lunch. Kids tend to eat the way we eat. They want what we're having. When you eat healthy at home and pack healthy lunches for yourself, your kid will do the same.


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