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Box of Healthy School Lunch Foods
Family Health

7 Ideas for a Healthy School Lunch Your Child Will Love

When you pack a healthy school lunch for your child, the last thing you want is for it to end up in the trash. Luckily, it's surprisingly easy to create a lunch that tastes great while being nutritious. Try these seven kid-pleasing suggestions, and lunchtime leftovers will be a thing of the past.

1. Black Bean and Chicken Burrito

Slowly digested protein can help keep kids' blood sugar and energy levels on an even keel all afternoon long. Stuff a whole-wheat tortilla with a mix of protein-packed black beans and chicken — and add a little salsa for zing! The result is a meal that's practically guaranteed to ward off afternoon slumps.

2. Pesto Pasta Salad

The next time you cook pasta for dinner, throw in a little extra for tomorrow's lunch. In the morning, toss it with a spoonful of pesto and a handful of halved grape tomatoes. The vitamin C in the tomatoes will help your child absorb more of the pasta's iron for optimal mental focus.

3. Veggie Buddah Bowl

These colorful bowls are an ingenious way to work more vegetables into your child's lunch. Spoon cooked quinoa or brown rice into a portable container and top it with roasted or sauteed veggies plus a handful of protein-rich beans. Serve it with a small container of vinaigrette for healthy fat and extra flavor.

4. Caprese Roll-Ups

If you have tweens, chances are that they're not getting the calcium they need to build strong, healthy bones. Why not slide some mozzarella into their midday meal for an instant calcium boost? Layer slices of mozzarella cheese and tomato on a whole-wheat tortilla, top with a couple fresh basil leaves, and roll it up into easy-to-eat wraps.

5. Fruit Skewers With Sunflower Butter

Whether your child is allergic to peanuts or could simply use a new spin on the same old PB&J sandwich, sunflower butter is a tasty alternative. Two tablespoons deliver at least half a child's daily dose of vitamin E for a strong immune system and a healthy heart. Round it out with fresh fruit skewers for dipping and a container of shelf-stable milk for added protein and calcium.

6. Protein Plate

Is your child a grazer? There's a lunch for that. Simply pack a bento box with finger foods like protein-packed hard-cooked eggs, edamame, or cheese cubes. Add in whole-wheat pita triangles for energizing complex carbs and a handful of mixed nuts or pumpkin seeds for healthy fat. Finish it off with a sweet serving of grapes, clementine segments, or berries.

7. Breakfast for Lunch

Waffles aren't just for breakfast anymore! Swap in whole-grain waffles for bread to deliver a new twist on a grilled cheese with tomato or peanut butter and banana sandwich.

With these easy ideas for packing a healthy school lunch, you can feel confident about sending your kids off with a nutritious and tasty midday meal.

Posted in Family Health

Karen Ansel is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant, speaker, journalist and author. Her work has been featured in Fitness, Shape, Oprah, Weight Watchers, Parade, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health magazines. She received her Master's of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen belongs to several dietetic practice groups including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Nutrition Entrepreneurs.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.