How to make school lunch more fun

Jul 31, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Image: KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images

Do your kids get jealous of what other moms pack in their friends' lunches? Not to worry. Clinton Kelly, co-host of the TV show The Chew, offers some tips on how to make your kids' lunches the envy of their peers.

Swap it out

Swap out the traditional banana or apple for a fruit salad that introduces your kids to new flavor profiles, Kelly says. "Diced mango, pineapple and grapes make for a sweet and tart combination that can be prepped and refrigerated the night before."

Liven lunch up

Do your kids get a kick out of the jokes on the popsicle sticks? Liven up the lunchtime chatter by stashing a few jokes in your kid's lunch box throughout the week, Kelly suggests. "It's a guaranteed way to help spread a little laughter around the cafeteria."

Send something sweet

Wild Kebabs |

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These Into the Wild Kebabs will turn lunch into an adventure, Kelly says. Just make sure to pack a few extra for sharing.

Bling the bag

Make decorating a brown lunch bag with glitter pens, stickers and fabric cutouts as an after-school activity, Kelly suggests. "Your kiddo will be excited to show off their inner Picasso at the lunch table the next day."

Send a smoothie

Mango Banana smoothie |

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Smoothies are a fun and easy way to sneak healthy fruits and protein into your kid's diet, he says. One of Kelly's favorites at the moment is this Mango and Banana Smoothie. "Prep and freeze it the night before and it'll be defrosted by lunchtime."

Work your magic

Do your kids like using their imaginations? Let your seasonal cookie cutters work their magic to transform square sandwiches into bite-sized shapes that are sure to bring a smile to your kid's face, Kelly says.

Other top ideas

Lunchable |

Photo credit: Lunchables

No time in the morning? Try fun prepared lunches, such as Lunchables with Smoothie. With tasty fruit flavors and no added sugars, both moms and kids will love it.

Also, don't be afraid to switch up the sides. Pistachios and dried fruit, cashews and dried apricots, mini bananas, celery sticks and sunflower butter, and veggie slices with guacamole will all give your kids some fun options that others in the cafeteria will want to try, says Molly Morgan, a registered dietitian and author of Skinny Size-It and The Skinny Rules.

Yogurt Puffs |

Photo credit: Earth's Best

Earth's Best also produces some sides that will give an extra pop of fun to every lunch box, such as Yogurt Puffs and Pop Snax, which are made from rice and potatoes.

Lunch bots red |

Photo credit: Lunchbots

Sometimes the lunch box can mean the difference between a boring lunch and a cool lunch. Lauren Elkins, director of nutrition at Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles, says Lunchbots make wonderful stainless steel lunch boxes that are a great tool for packing lunches. "This is a great way to give them a variety while maintaining organized kid-friendly portions," she says.

Finally, get kids involved. "Do it their way and give kids a choice," says Rene Ficek, a lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. "If they get to decide what to pack, they are more likely to eat it."

Present a selection of parent-approved snacks, sandwich options, fruits, veggies and other treats, and let kids pack their own lunch or devise a menu for the week, Ficek says. After all, no parent likes to see her kids come home with half-eaten lunches.

This post was sponsored by Lunchables.

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