Lunches that give your kids energy at school

Sep 7, 2010 at 7:24 p.m. ET

Kids need energy and brain power to perform well in school. However, despite your efforts of picking out fresh fruits and veggies with your child at the grocery store, they still may ask for junky packaged foods! If you’re looking for some more nutritious options, try out these fun tips with your kids to create your own healthy version.

5 Ways to give your kids' lunch box a healthy overhaul

1. Presentation is everything

Since kids love these little lunches for their fun packaging and cute compartments inside, allow your child to help you pick out a bento box in their favorite color and theme. Some fun options include Yubo Lunchbox Systems (, The Laptop Lunch Bento Set 2.0 (, and

Other ways to add to the wow factor include colored toothpicks for skewering fruits and veggies, slicing wraps to make pinwheel shapes, and cutting cheese and natural lunch meats with heart and star cookie cutters.

2. Don't forget the veggies

One of the common denominators missing from most of the store bought lunches is vegetables. Since many kids aren't eating enough vegetables as it is, adding them to lunch time in fun and tasty ways will get them more excited. Kids love to dip, so try pairing zucchini chips with light ranch dressing, and baby carrots with SunButter and raisin dip. Top off cracker and cheese stackers with cucumber slices.

For pasta salads, toss in shredded carrots and cabbage, corn kernels and peas. Accompanying sandwiches with a curly green lettuce leaf is another way to sneak in their 5-a-day veggies.

3. Save room for dessert

If chosen wisely, sweet treats can still have a place in a healthy lunch box. Replace chocolate bars with a homemade trail mix of dried fruit, roasted almonds and dark chocolate chips. When it comes to cookies and graham crackers, look in the natural food section at your grocery store for those made with whole grains and dried fruit.

Kids love fruit leathers and some even count towards half of a fruit serving. Just be sure to read the label and look for those made with fruit puree concentrates and with no added sugar.

4. Go whole grain

Most kids will still enjoy the more nutritious whole grain version of crackers, tortillas, breads and chips. These higher fiber foods with labels stating "100% whole grain" are a better choice, and those touting "made with whole grains" come in at a close second.

According to the Whole Grains Council, 16 grams of whole grains count as one whole grain serving

5. Beverages count, too

No school lunch is complete without a refreshing cold beverage. While plain milk is one of the best drinks you can give your child, add some excitement from time to time by offering strawberry, vanilla or chocolate flavored milk or a bottled yogurt smoothie which still provide calcium, vitamin A and D, and protein.

100% pineapple juice, orange juice and fruit punch also provide energy and a good dose of vitamin C.