Kids can be very choosy. It may seem hard to remember, but you probably once did the things that your child does now. Avoiding certain foods, demanding crusts be removed from bread, and returning portions of packed lunch, untouched.

Ensuring that your child eats a balanced lunch that will provide lasting energy can seem daunting. But it's not impossible. It requires thinking like a child again. Re-inventing last night's stir fry. Think about splashing meals with color, from lead-free Bento style boxes to apple wedges and orange slices.

Remember to keep it:

  • Colorful
  • Fun
  • Creative

Try these kid-friendly tips to create an appealing meal for your child.

Think Ahead and Think Small
Team up with your child in the kitchen. You'll get a pair of helping hands. You'll also spend quality time together and instill in your child the benefits of a healthy lunch.

  • Create a lunch plan to guide the week's menu and eliminate hurried last-minute time crunches. If you're better prepared, there is less likelihood of packing unhealthy foods.
  • Along with Sunday night's lunch plan, you can save time each morning by already having certain items prepared. Pre-chopped fruits and vegetables can be stored and grabbed from the fridge when needed. If it's diced and chopped, or garnished with a colorful napkin or toothpick, chances are your child will be more inclined to eat it.
  • Bring out the kid in you as you plan and prepare your child's lunch. Pack apple wedges, melon cubes, string cheese, or carrot sticks.

Brown Bag vs. Lunch Box
Unlike their paper counterparts, metal or plastic boxes are sturdier, preserve food better, and they're reusable.

Sandwiches will stay squish-free, vegetables will be fresher, and you're more likely to see what's leftover. Disposable packaging makes it easier for kids to throw away uneaten food. Other options are lead-free Bento lunch boxes. These colorful containers offer a twist on the traditional lunch box, and are safe, waste-free, and easy to clean.

Lunch Ideas
PB&J Varieties
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a familiar favorite among kids. Depending on how you make it, this sweet sandwich can be packed with sugar, fat, and sodium, or a healthy treat.

Create healthy versions of the classic PB & J by swapping out less healthy ingredients.

The Healthy PB&J

  • Organic, natural, or homemade peanut or almond butter
  • No sugar added jelly or fruit spread
  • Whole-wheat bread: High in fiber and low in fat and calories
  • Portion control: Keep it snack-sized by using only one slice of bread

Fun Varieties

  • Add sliced apples or bananas
  • Try soy nut butter and honey
  • Replace bread with a whole wheat pita

Left-Overs Re-Discovered
Sandwiches, day after day, may get dull. With a bit of planning, last night's dinner can be today's lunch. As long as it's well insulated, you can pack stew, soup, or stir-fry to make sure your child gets a healthy and filling meal.

Healthy Sides
A balanced lunch is a substantial lunch, one that incorporates colorful vegetables and fruits to provide lasting energy. Sugary, processed snacks -- while tempting to kids -- offer no nutritional value. Cleverly packaged foods only manage to do one thing: over-stimulate!

Healthy options include:

  • Fruit: apple wedges, orange slices, bananas, grapes
  • Veggies: carrot sticks, celery sticks, grape tomatoes
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Hummus
  • Cottage cheese

Fun tip: Make your own trail mix. Or, using a variety of nuts, add dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries, plus an extra sweet crunch with banana chips.