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15 Fresh Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

Try these 15 fun, easy-to-pack lunch ideas for kids.
WebMD Expert Column

If you're a parent of school-age kids, you're probably no stranger to brown bananas and smashed sandwiches aging in the bottom of your child's backpack. By the end of the school year, most kids are tired of eating the same bag lunch day after day at school. Even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can grow old.

Summer brings a change of weather and daytime activities. Why not change what you pack in your children’s camp or summer school lunches?

lunch box

These 15 kids’ lunchbox ideas are based on four key elements. Use them when you fix your summer lunches, too:

  • Include more whole foods and less processed foods. Choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients children need (like calcium, protein, and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips, and snack cakes, which have higher sodium, added sugar, and saturated fat.
  • Be creative. Think outside the lunchbox. Does your child enjoy spanakopita triangles, Chinese chicken salad, or veggie/soy corn dogs at home? With a little forethought and a reusable cold pack, you can probably pack them for lunch, too.
  • Keep it cold. For safety's sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack. Better yet, freeze a small water bottle or box of 100% juice. Your child will have a slushy drink to enjoy at lunch and won't have to worry about bringing an ice pack home.
  • Keep it fun. Include items that kids can stack or mix up to their taste when they eat. Remember that kids like to dunk, and include healthy dips with vegetables or other items. Cut foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

15 Fun Lunchbox Ideas for Kids

Try these menu items to jazz up bag lunches.

Pasta Lover's Lunch Salad. Pack a cold pasta salad and a plastic fork, and your pasta lover will love you, too! Make the salad with lean meat or low-fat cheese (so it has some protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition, and whole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a light bottled vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a pita pocket with falafel balls and some homemade or store-bought hummus. Some falafel balls come cooked and ready to add.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of reduced fat cheese, easy-to-eat fruit such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon and whole-wheat crackers.

Peanut Butter Fun Pack. Make a peanut butter fun pack by spooning two tablespoons of natural-style peanut butter in a reusable plastic container, along with whole wheat crackers or whole wheat pita pocket wedges and raw vegetables such as celery, zucchini, or jicama sticks.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for hardy sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or locker all morning. Start with one regular or a few mini bagels. Add tuna or lean, roasted, and sliced turkey or roast beef. Top it off with reduced-fat cheese and fresh tomato, onion, and Romaine lettuce or sprouts. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

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