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Be a brown bag winner! Packing smart and cool lunches for kids

Brown bag lunches have gotten a bad rap for years, conjuring up visions of smashed white bread sandwiches and mutilated fruit. You can easily turn that image around with some creative twists and turns that make kids look forward to what’s in the bag and provides them with energy and nutrition for the rest of the day.

girl with packed lunch

Kids are thrilled when you think outside the bag. Imagine that sandwiches were never invented and then think about your kids’ favorite foods. Now you’re ready to create the coolest and healthiest bag lunches ever.

Cool salads

Pack a plastic container with your kid’s favorite lettuce or greens and top it with strips of chicken or lean meat, shredded carrots, low-fat cheese and some chopped, hard-cooked eggs. Toss a packet or two of salad dressing into the bag to add at lunchtime so the greens don’t get soggy. For pasta loving kids, fill a container with tiny, short pasta and two or three favorite raw vegetables. Toss with a light vinaigrette. Add a plastic fork to the bag.

Smorgasbord lunches

Spoon 1/4 cup or so of peanut butter or low-fat sour cream into a small container. Fill a sandwich bag with whole grain crackers or pita chips, and pack another bag with strips of celery, zucchini, carrots and jicama. At lunch time, the ingredients become a smorgasbord of dips and dippers. If your kid is a fan of fruits and cheese, pack an assortment of each in separate plastic bags — and package a spoonful or two of fruit-flavored, low-fat yogurt or honey-sweetened, low-fat sour cream for dipping.

Muffins, bagels and wraps

Instead of bread, use muffins, bagels and wraps to cradle healthy fillings. A frozen corn or wheat muffin will be perfectly thawed by lunchtime and tastes good spread with peanut butter or filled with slices of lean meat or cheese. Split mini bagels and fill them with protein-rich tuna salad, chicken salad or sliced deli meat and cheese topped with a lettuce leaf. For a healthy wrap, spread a multigrain flour tortilla with mustard or pesto sauce and layer meat, cheese and lettuce on it. Roll it up and wrap it in foil for an easy-to-handle lunch treat.

Packing pointers

To keep bagged lunch foods cool and tasty, add a frozen container of a healthy drink, such as Capri Sun Super V, to the bag in the morning. It will keep the food chilled and will be slushy and cold at lunchtime — and you don’t have to worry about an ice pack getting lost. Add a little note to the bag every once in a while to just say hi or wish your kid luck on a test or competition. Surprise your kiddos with a treat now and then by tucking an oatmeal cookie or nutritious energy bar into the bottom of the bag.

Brown bag lunches don’t have to be boring. Talk to your kids about what they like, let them choose some of their favorite lunch ingredients from the produce department and you’ll never again pack a boring brown bagger.

More bag lunch ideas

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