Fun foods don’t have to be deep-fried or full of preservatives. Just think bite-size, dippable, and varied. Natural foods aisles in many grocery stores have a lot of healthier products, such as snacks sweetened only with fruit juice or packaged with fewer trans-fats and preservatives.
Here are five ideas for health-conscious meals that are easy to prepare and fun for kids. Whether your child is a try-anything eater or has the pickiest appetite ever seen, these lunches are sure to please.
MONDAY: Deconstructed Sandwiches
Instead of buying prepacked sets of crackers, cheese, and deli meats, put together a homemade version. Your child can even help out the night before, picking out the crackers, meat, cheese, and a small dessert. Another fun idea is to use mini cookie cutters (about the same size as the crackers) to cut the lunch meat slices into fun shapes. (The leftovers make a good mid-morning nibble for you!)
- veggie or water cracker rounds
- chicken or turkey deli meat, cut into roughly cracker-size pieces
- part-skim mozzarella or cheddar slices, cut into roughly cracker-size squares
- fruit cup (packed in juice) or unsweetened applesauce
TUESDAY: Grilled Cheese Pockets
As a variation on the standard pan-browned cheese sandwich, try using a sandwich maker; some machines even make the crispy triangles sealed around the edges. Use whole-grain bread and low-fat or part-skim cheeses, which are healthier than their whole-milk counterparts and melt better than completely fat-free versions. Include a couple of fruit leathers and a handful of baked pita or potato chips in the lunch bag, too.
WEDNESDAY: Turkey-Cran Tortilla Bites
Instead of packing a bulky wrap or burrito, slice up a tightly rolled tortilla and fillings. The trick is to spread all the ingredients evenly, rather than pile them into the middle like in a traditional wrap sandwich.
Lay the tortilla flat, then spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce over the whole surface. Top with one layer of lettuce leaves, then with pulled turkey (in smallish pieces) or deli meat slices. Roll tightly, then cut into one- or two-bite pieces, holding each piece closed with kid-safe toothpicks. (For vegetarian kids, try it with a thicker spread of hummus, thin slices of peppers and cucumber, and lettuce.) Toss in a box of raisins and a few animal-shaped crackers on the side.
THURSDAY: Dipping Day
Everything in this lunch is bite-size and gets dunked. Pack them loosely in separate containers for younger children, or in rows on “skewers” for older ones.
- Chicken nibblers with honey mustard
- Baked tortilla chips and tomato salsa
- Baby carrots and cut-up celery sticks with light ranch dressing
- Sliced apple, banana, and peach with fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt stirred with all-fruit jam)
FRIDAY: Layered Lunch
Turn the traditional sandwich on its head—literally—by piling the halves onto one another. It even works without the crusts! (Just cut them off before building.) This is a great way to liven up old standards like peanut butter and jelly, or try a club sandwich variation.
Cut two whole-grain bread slices diagonally in half, then line up the four resulting triangles. Spread a little bit of mustard on the first triangle and top with one piece of deli meat and cheese. On the next triangle, use mayo and a different kind of deli meat. The third triangle gets sliced veggies, such as tomato and cucumber, and lettuce. Stack these three, covering them with the last triangle. Spear the tower with two kid-safe toothpicks and cut in half. Include some pretzel sticks and chopped dried fruit.