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Is it just us, or is it an accomplishment some days simply to get the kids dressed and out the door on time, let alone dressed, out the door on time, and carrying a healthy -- and delicious -- packed lunch)?
And let’s be honest: Figuring out what to feed sometimes-finicky kids for lunch and dealing with all the nut-free and other restrictions at school can be enough to give any mom the brown-bag blues. Try some of these creative, healthy ideas below from our iVillage mamas and check out the boards for more ideas. You’ll be out of the PB&J rut in no time.
* “My kids like hummus, so we make homemade lemon-garlic hummus and put it on a low-carb, high fiber tortilla, roll it up, and cut in half. Along with that, they have a hard-boiled egg or a cheese stick and some fresh fruit, usually apples or grapes.” - Ishagirl
* “Pasta salads. My son loves it when I put some things together with cold pasta in a container for him. I might do diced chicken or turkey lunch meat with tomatoes and cucumbers, a little shredded cheese and his favorite salad dressing. I also make a ‘Pizza Box’: I put chunks of mozzarella cheese, black olives, pepperoni slices and croutons in a container for him. He loves this! And wrap ups: turkey lunch meat with tomatoes, bacon and cream cheese rolled up in a tortilla and cut into little pinwheels.” - cl-nathanielsmom110100
* “We just started our second year of bento lunches. My youngest son is a picky eater and takes a daily medicine that can sometimes suppress his appetite. With a bento lunch, he can easily bring home any leftovers so I can evaluate what he did or didn’t eat at lunchtime and adjust what he eats for the rest of the day.” - ajm-mom
We're also loving these yummy ideas from nutrition expert Barbie Broschart, MS, RD, CD/N:
* Sweet potato fries: Most school fries are laden with fat and salt, so sub baked sweet potato fries instead. To make, cut one or two sweet potatoes in half-moon wedges and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch each of cinnamon, salt and garlic powder. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency. Top with vanilla Greek yogurt and sliced apples for a sweet lunch, or melted low-fat cheese and beans and salsa for a savory lunch. Pack this in an air tight Tupperware to keep fresh.
* Eggs: Eggs are a versatile wonder food for busy moms. Make an easy egg salad with some low-fat mayo, chopped carrots and celery and serve up on whole grain crackers. Or whip up a few scrambled eggs with some diced veggies (try tomatoes and spinach) and low-fat cheese and put it on an English muffin, sandwich thin or mini whole grain bagel. Get creative and vary your veggies; add grilled turkey, ham or chicken sausage; or add beans or red potatoes. Wrap in tin foil and pair with a serving of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk or 100 percent fruit juice.
* Oatmeal: For a heart healthy lunch, pair this fiber-full whole grain with some chopped nuts and dried fruit (like raisins, cranberries or apricots), or stir in your kid’s favorite nut butter. Pack it in a thermos and pair with a container of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit.
* Healthy Nachos: Swap white corn tortillas with a whole grain chip (or make your own baked whole grain pita chips). Use as the bottom layer, then top with shredded lettuce, one ounce of low-fat cheese, chopped tomatoes, avocado and black beans. (Add some lean ground chicken or turkey meat for extra protein.) Pack the nachos in an airtight container -- and include extra napkins and a moistened wipe because this one can get messy!
Want more inspiration? See kid-approved lunch ideas on our preschooler boards!