Are you short on ideas for packing lunches for your kids, but still have months of school to go? Here are some ideas to launch a fresh attitude.
Go for color. Parents can encourage their kids to eat more nutritionally varied diets by adding more color and more items to their meals, such as strawberries to dip in yogurt, or baby carrots and slices of green pepper to dip in dressing.
Instead of tossing together last-minute lunches during the morning rush, do as much as possible the evening before. Get your kids involved to have a better shot at packing something they will eat.
One plan-ahead advocate is Charlotte mother Lisa Leake. She has an archive of school-lunch ideas at www.100daysofrealfood .com , her website about her family's journey toward healthier eating. Her suggestions to get beyond sandwiches include:
Make pinwheels. Roll up whole-wheat tortillas with fillings such as sunflower butter and all-fruit spread, or egg salad. Sunflower butter is an alternative to peanut butter, which is banned in many schools because of allergies.
Make an apple sandwich. Slice an apple in half, cut out the core and fill it with sunflower butter, raisins and raw rolled oats. Squirt a bit of lemon juice on the apples to keep them from turning brown.
Make whole-wheat muffins such as blueberry or zucchini to use instead of sandwich bread. Make them ahead, freeze them and pull them out the night before school.
Use a thermos to pack alternatives such as soups, oatmeal, pasta or dinner leftovers.
Fill reusable freezer-pop holders with goodies such as smoothies, applesauce or plain yogurt mixed with a berry sauce. A frozen "pop" shipped off in the morning should be partly thawed by lunchtime.
Bring kids into the kitchen and get them involved in the process, says Catherine McCord, a mother of two who shares tips and recipes at weelicious.com.
She also has an archive of lunch ideas, including dips for veggies, "very berry" muffins and a grilled cheese panini with whole-grain sourdough and sharp cheddar cheese.
A nonprofit group devoted to children's health has a website, kidshealth.org, that includes recipes for children such as homemade applesauce, blueberry oatmeal squares and banana muffins.