Packing your kid's school lunch can take about as much preparation as a shuttle launch -- unless you don't mind if it ends up in the trash can or in another student's stomach.
Here are some lunch-packing tips to help spice things up during the upcoming school year.
It's a good idea to involve your kid in the lunch-packing process. She will be more willing to eat what's in the bag if she put it in there herself. Take her to the grocery store with you and before you go, take time to think of foods that you both can agree on. You may have to compromise a bit. Don't be afraid to allow her to choose some not-so-healthy snacks as long as there is a fair amount of healthful foods in the lunch as well.
Make a game of choosing the lunch menu. Talk with your kid about good nutrition and about how it is important to eat from different food groups. Write the names of different lunch foods on index cards and on the back of each card, draw a picture representing the food group each selection is in. When it's time to plan lunches, have your child pick a card from each food group at random. For added fun, ask your kid to decorate the cards.
Do you think your kid would never get excited about vegitables? Perhaps you haven't tried the right ones. Take him to a farmer's market or the grocery store and explore the less common fruits and veggies together. Look for foods that grown in other parts of the world and then, if you're lucky, he'll want to go home and research more about that region. Encourage your kid to grown his own veggies, too: tomatoes, radishes and carrots are fun and easy to grow.
It's fun for kids to find surprises in their lunches -- and it lets them know that you are thinking of them during the day. Stickers, fun pencils, a note, a drawing and lollipops are great treasures to discover.
Pack your kid's lunch with care. When temperatures rise above 75 degrees, unrefridgerated meat, eggs, yogurt and mayonnaise can make a kid very sick by lunchtime. An idea: pack the lunch with blue ice packs or frozen juice boxes to keep the lunch chilled.
Pre-packaged lunches from the grocery store contain more fat, sodium, sugar and preservatives than your child should have in one day, much less one meal. Besides, they're less personal. If you like the concept of crackers, meats and cheeses, for example, make it yourself. It'll cost less in the long run and will be more healthful, too.
Whatever lunch you pack, make it fun -- for you and for your kid. If you use your imagination to make lunch fun, the only thing your kid will be interested in trading during lunch time will be his Pokemon cards.
Click here for fun lunch recipes!
Many schools have hot lunch programs that students can participate in; a federal program helps low-income families pay for the meals. Click here to learn a little more about the National School Lunch Program that funds these lunches