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Follow these easy guidelines to transform bag lunches from the everyday ho-hum to something delicious worth digging into:

  • Look for as much variety as you can. Use different types of bread (or perhaps crackers, tortillas or rice cakes) for sandwiches; cut sandwiches into different shapes; look for different colors of fruit and vegetables.
  • Enlist your child's help in both choosing the foods for lunch and preparing them. Don't give too many choices. Set parameters for the choice: ask whether she would like grapes or oranges, or a peanut butter or tuna sandwich.
  • Since time is of the essence, cut fruit and vegetables into bite-size pieces, peel oranges or tangerines, and make sure food is in easy-to-open containers.
  • Try low-fat ranch dressing for veggies and yogurt for fruit to make this part of the meal more attractive.
  • If your child likes salads, include bits of leftover tuna, chicken or beef for added protein.
  • Jazz up peanut butter sandwiches by including sliced bananas, honey, marshmallow fluff, sliced apples or pretzels. Surprise! It's not the same old sandwich anymore.
  • Leftover pizza is a great addition to a bag lunch.
  • Make fruit, vegetable or even cheese kabobs.
  • To make sure your child gets enough calcium, pack cheese cubes, string cheese, cottage cheese or pudding.
  • Encourage milk or water to drink.
  • Try hummus or other bean dips with crackers or baked pita chips for a fun and easy-to-eat meal.
  • Add a sweet treat for dessert: two or three cookies, pudding, graham crackers and a small muffin are all smart choices.

Instead of a plain brown bag ...

Pack your child's lunch in an insulated container that holds a reusable cold pack, or use a frozen juice box to keep the rest of the meal cold. A wide-mouth thermal container works great for soups or chili. Use microwavable containers to store food safely. Add a sticker, personal note, special napkin or other item that shows you're thinking of your child.

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