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Tasty lunch tips and recipes for your kids

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Tasty lunches for your kids

Are your kids getting tired of the same old brown paper bag ham and cheese sandwiches or boring meatloaf offered by the school cafeteria? Try some of these ideas for packing your kids a healthy, tasty meal that will keep them interested in eating lunch.
Tasty lunches for your kids

Healthy Brown Bagging Lunch Tips

Before you send your kids off with a new and creative midday meal, keep these things in mind:
  • Lunchmeats, dairy products, tuna or potato salads, and eggs are perishable, so pack a freezer pack in their lunch bag.
  • Choose whole-grain breads, wraps or pitas for an extra nutritional boost.
  • If your child does not like the taste of whole-grain, use breads that are still made with whole-grains but taste like white bread.
  • Make sandwiches with lean proteins and healthy toppings — and fix a variety of different sandwiches so your kids don't get the blah brown bag blues.
  • Even better, think beyond the sandwich and pack soup, salads, casserole, stews, chili or stir-fried vegetables in your child's lunch bag.

Sandwich Ideas

Sandwiches don't have to be boring. If you typically send PB&J's or pack plain ham and cheese on white bread, add some tasty flair with these options:
  • Tuna with light mayonnaise, celery, raisins, spinach and tomato
  • Egg salad seasoned with curry powder on whole-grain bread
  • Cashew, almond, sesame seed or macadamia nut butter and 100 percent fruit spread (or mashed fresh fruit) on whole-grain bread
  • Sliced lean turkey, roast beef, or chicken with vinegar and olive oil, mustard, and one slice of cheese on foccacia bread or a ciabatta roll.
Tasty lunches for your kids

What to send with the sandwich

  • Piece of fresh fruit
  • Small salad in a plastic container with the dressing on the side
  • Cheese sticks (which are loaded with calcium)
  • Whole-grain snack crackers
  • Homemade fruit salad with grapes, melon balls and blueberries tossed with yogurt
  • Mixed dried fruit and nuts (try soynuts for a change)
  • Cold pasta salad, coleslaw or potato salad made with low-fat mayo or dressing
  • Baked banana chips (avoid the fried variety)
  • Baby carrots with a light dip or guacamole
  • Crunchy raw green beans with light Ranch dressing
  • Low-fat flavored yogurt

Healthy, tasty brown bag recipes

Ham Club Sliders

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
8 small potato buns, halved
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise, optional
2 tablespoons low-sodium barbecue sauce
4 romaine lettuce leaves, torn in small pieces
2 slices crispy cooked low-sodium bacon or ham
4 thin slices roasted turkey
1 half-pint grape or cherry tomatoes
Sweet, dill or bread and butter pickles
Directions:
Toast buns under a broiler or in a toaster oven and spread with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Layer buns with lettuce, bacon or ham, and turkey, cherries and pickles. Top with other bun. Wrap in plastic wrap and give one or two to each child.

Hummus and Grilled Vegetable Wrap

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 cup store-bought or homemade hummus
4 (8- to 10-inch) whole wheat wraps (tortillas)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Directions:
1. Preheat grill or grill pan. Brush zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 4 minutes per side or until tender.
2. Spread hummus on each wrap. Sprinkle pine nuts on top of hummus and layer with zucchini, red pepper, spinach, sliced onions and mint. Roll wrap and slice in half. Wrap with plastic wrap or pack in a plastic container.

Turkey and Cheese Pinwheels

Makes 2 servings
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped pimiento
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 to 2 drops hot sauce, optional
2 whole grain flour wraps (tortillas)
4 thin slices deli turkey
Directions
1. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheese, pimiento, seasoning and hot sauce in a bowl.
2. Lay tortillas flat and spread cream cheese mixture on each tortilla. Lay turkey slices on cream cheese. Roll wraps and slice into 1/2-inch slices. Place pinwheels together on a piece of plastic wrap and cover tightly, or pack in a plastic container.

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