5 Healthy and Delicious Lunches Your Kids Will Love

When it comes to my daughter's lunches, there's certainly much more to think about these days than when my mom packed PB&J sandwiches into a brown paper bag or my Strawberry Shortcake lunch box. Most moms today worry about issues like pesticides, nut allergies and trans fats, and they want to make sure that what they send for their child's noontime meal is healthy and well-balanced. Still, you also have to make sure it's tasty enough so that it won't get traded (or worse, tossed).

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, a child's lunch should include milk, a protein, a vegetable or fruit, and a grain. Within these parameters, you can think beyond the typical sandwiches that we grew up on and get creative about fun presentations and flavor combinations. Many young kids love the act of dipping their foods, so consider packing some healthy dips like yogurt or hummus to enjoy with vegetable spears. Try cutting or forming foods into fun shapes that they'll love to eat. Or, take a cue from the meals enjoyed by other cultures, particularly the cuisines that your child is starting to explore and enjoy, such as Japanese, Mexican or Thai.

Here's a week's worth of school lunch ideas that ensure your child will stay satisfied all afternoon.

Monday: SB&J, Cucumber Fingers with Lemon-Dill Dipping Sauce

Spread soy nut butter and no-sugar-added fruit preserves onto slices of white whole-wheat bread and sandwich them together. Mix a squeeze of lemon juice, a teaspoon of fresh chopped dill, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper into plain low-fat yogurt; serve with cucumbers cut lengthwise into 3-inch wedges.

Tuesday: Turkey-Spinach Pinwheels, Veggies and Hummus, Oatmeal Cookie

Spread a whole-wheat tortilla or flatbread thinly with low-fat vegetable cream cheese. Top with a few slices of turkey deli meat (or tofu turkey deli meat), sprinkle evenly with baby spinach, roll and slice into pinwheels. Include a small container of hummus and your child's favorite vegetables for dipping (baby carrots, celery stalks, bell pepper slices, broccoli or cauliflower florets are all good choices). Include a store-bought or homemade oatmeal cookie.

Wednesday: Soba Surprise, Fresh Fruit

Combine about a cup of cooked whole wheat soba noodles with shredded carrots and zucchini, diced bell peppers, shredded, cooked chicken breast and shelled, cooked edamame. Make a dressing of 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sesame oil; toss with the salad. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Include your child's favorite kind of fresh fruit, and, if they know how to wield them, chopsticks.

Thursday: Lunch Kebabs, Flatbread and Fruit

On wooden skewers, spear cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, chunks of seasoned, baked tofu, and halved slices of cucumber. Include some crunchy flatbread or multigrain crackers and a container of seedless grapes or another favorite fruit.

Friday: Stuffed Pita

Fill a whole-wheat pita with sliced avocado, Monterey jack cheese and sprouts. Serve with soy crisps or vegetable crisps and sliced apples spread with peanut butter, almond butter or soy nut butter.

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