The Best Back-to-School Brown-Bag Lunches

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, elementary school students have an average of 21 minutes for lunch. That doesn't include waiting in line for their meal or chatting with their friends. At best, you can expect your child to spend 10-15 minutes actually eating his or her lunch.

Bag lunch how-to's

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.

More Back-to-School Meal Ideas:

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