Here are some tips to add variety to your child’s school lunch during the school year:
Packed lunches can be fun, says Annabel Karmel, a British author of children’s nutrition and recipe books. Some of her tips are, if not universal, transatlantic:
• Lunches prepared the night before save time the next morning and allow for more thought. “You can prepare pasta salads, sandwich fillings or include something from last night’s dinner, like soup in a flask, chicken skewers or a frittata.”
• Processed foods tend to overserve the salt, sugar, additives and saturated fat. “Instead of crisps (crackers or chips) or chocolate cookies, try offering toasted seeds, popcorn, rice cakes, yogurt-covered raisins and dried apricots,” Karmel suggests.
• Add a special touch: Cut sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters or thread fruit onto a straw. An idea from Parents magazine: Turn cocktail franks into pups by adding a thin-pretzel-stick tail and legs.
• “Most children will leave food that takes a lot of effort to eat,” Karmel says. So peel oranges in advance and cover them with plastic wrap; cut carrots into sticks and wrap in damp paper towels. Adding a yogurt, cream cheese or hummus dip often adds appeal.
• Ask the children to help you make the lunch the night before. You can switch it up by sending cereal and fruit (buy the milk for breakfast for lunch), or cheese and crackers and fruit.
• Include dipping sauce or sprinkles or add a Thermos with warm or cold entrees such as fun-shaped pasta or soup. Interactivity is key.
• Make the sandwiches but have the kids pack up the rest of the lunch. It must include a fruit and may include chips or a dessert. When children (make) choices, they are more likely to eat what is packed.
• Every kid is going to get a little smile on their face when you do something goofy with their lunch. Add notes, put in leftover fortune cookies, cut sandwiches into silly shapes, put their name on the bag with hearts and stickers.