Build a Healthy Lunch

10 tips to start the school year.

1. Go from dinner to lunch.

Get creative with last night's leftovers. When you make dinner, keep tomorrow's lunch in mind. Dining on roast turkey or chicken for dinner tonight? Turn them into sandwiches for tomorrow's lunch. If you have pasta for dinner, think about packing your kids a pasta salad for lunch. Pretty much any dinner can be repurposed into a fun, healthy lunch.

2. Make a little out of a lot.

Rather than buying lots of lunch-sized foods, purchase foods in bulk. Then, store them properly in airtight containers. You'll save money and time by portioning the food out into your kids' containers on a Sunday night. Doing this will save you valuable time during the hustle and bustle of the school week.

3. Add a dash of color.

Nothing lights up a child's lunch like colorful food items. Colorful foods aren't only fun and inviting, but they also tend to be very nutritious and all natural. Consider carrots, cucumbers, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries. The colors, and choices, are endless!

4. Shape a fun lunch.

Shaping sandwich bread into fun, exciting shapes with a cookie cutter helps transform your kids' ordinary sandwich from something boring into something special. Think about different shapes for different days of the week to mix things up.

5. Treat in moderation.

There's no reason you can't pack your kids a sweet treat for lunch, but think about giving them treats with substance. Give them a homemade banana muffin, or instead of using marshmallows in a sweet and sticky treat, try peanut butter. And if you prefer more "traditional" treats, just control the portions. One small brownie or cookie is all it takes to satisfy your kids' sweet tooth.

6. Go beyond bread.

If your kids love sandwiches, think about packing lunches that get away from white, wheat, or rye breads. Mix things up with tortilla wraps, bagels, toasted English muffins, pita pockets, fresh-baked rolls, or even crackers!

7. Make your own trail mix.

Anything goes when it comes to making your own snack mix for kids to enjoy: Think pretzels, cereal, dried fruit, and more. You can even toss in the occasional candy, dried yogurt bits, or chocolatecovered raisins.

8. Get your kids in the kitchen.

Encourage your kids to come shopping with you and pick out what they'd like for lunch – under your watchful guidance, of course. Then, get them excited about helping you pack their lunch. Your kids will feel good about eating the lunch they helped prepare.

9. Give your child choices.

The best way to get your child really excited about lunch is to let her pick what she wants the day before. Give her two options either at the supermarket or while you're preparing lunch. This way, you're empowering your child while still keeping tabs and making sure she's eating healthy.

10. Pack a note.

Outside of food, packing supportive bits of love in the form of a note will help ease your child's transition from summertime into school time. It lets her know you're right there with her, even when you can't be. What's more, as a parent, you'll feel a sense of comfort knowing that your child is reading your note while enjoying the lunch you prepared.