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15 Fresh Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

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

15 Fun Lunchbox Ideas for Kids continued...

Muffin Mania. Muffins can add flavor and flair to a bag lunch. If you bake them ahead and keep them in the freezer, you just have to pull out one or two in the morning. By lunch, they’ll be soft and ready to eat.

There are a few tricks to improving the health value of muffin recipes. Substitute in whole-wheat flour for at least half of the flour in recipes that call for white flour. Incorporate other whole grains when possible. Add in summer fruits such as berries or peaches or vegetables like corn or grated zucchini, when appropriate. You can also cut back on the sugar called for in a recipe when you add in fruit. Switch in smart fats (such as canola or olive oil), when possible, and reduced saturated fat options (such as reduced fat cheese).

Tasty Spanakopita Triangles. These spinach-filled filo puffs are vegetarian finger food that’s fun to eat. Some stores carry frozen spanakopita that you can bake in the morning or the night before and pack in your child’s lunch. Read the label to find a brand that's got plenty of vitamins A and C, plus iron and calcium.

Soy Much for Sandwiches. For a change of pace, make soy the center of your child’s lunch. There are more and more great-tasting soy-based products available. For example, specialty grocery stores carry meatless corn dogs. To prepare one for a bag lunch, heat it up in the microwave in the morning. Remove the wooden stick, crisp it up briefly in the toaster oven, and wrap it in foil. Meatless versions of chicken nuggets are also available and can be prepared just like the corn dogs. The trick is finding a brand your child enjoys that isn’t too high in sodium.

Tasty Side Dishes

Add some of these to round out your child’s lunch:

  • Fruit cups (with no sugar added)
  • Applesauce in flavors such as pomegranate or cranberry-raspberry (also with no sugar added)
  • Nuts or seeds in a shell (if age and allergy appropriate), such as walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, or sunflower seeds
  • Raw veggies (ready to pack) such as carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, celery, or jicama sticks
  • Cheese sticks -- available in 2% sharp cheddar, part skim-milk mozzarella, pepper jack, and more
  • Healthy snack bars (individually wrapped) with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams sugar, and no more than 1 gram saturated fat
  • Yogurt in individual containers (keep it cold by packing them with a reusable ice pack or a small water bottle that has been frozen.) 

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for WebMD and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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Edited on May 07, 2010

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