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Skip boring school lunches: Easy meal ideas students will love

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 8:59 am | Updated: 11:00 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

A brown paper bag or a plastic lunch box. No two items can elicit such fear in the hearts of parents across the country. They seem like harmless items on the surface, but it's coming up with what goes inside can be truly scary.

Day after day, creating new lunch ideas that children will actually eat can be challenging. Parents are often short on time in the evening or the morning before the bus arrives and may be at a loss as to what foods to keep stocked in the pantry, which makes planning lunches a taller order than it may seem.

Rest assured that concocting school lunches doesn't have to be difficult. Follow these tips for lunchtime success.

• Think outside the bread. Bread can be boring. Skip the sandwiches and think of other foods that can serve as the wrapping for tasty foods. Tortillas, pitas, pizza crusts, and crackers are other ideas for topping or holding items together. What's more, rolling up a tortilla or topping your own pizza is much more fun than biting into that standard PB&J sandwich.

• Explore more mature flavors. Who says kids only want bologna and cheese? Ask your child what he or she enjoys eating and stock up on those ingredients. For example, if you enjoy a wrap of grilled chicken with fresh mozzarella and basil, your child might as well.

• Make it fun. Pack lunch according to a theme. Maybe Monday is all round-shaped foods. Tuesday may be cowboy themed, with southern flair. On Wednesday all the foods may be red. Your child will be eating the same foods he or she always did but just in a more interesting way. Chances are if it's fun to eat, the kids will be on board.

• Involve the kids. Make a chart that lists foods in specific categories: fruit, vegetable, meat, dairy, and snack. Enable your child to pick the combination he or she desires each day. Involving children in meal creation helps make them more in tune with food choices and more likely to eat what they have chosen.

• Who says lunch has to be "lunch"? Instead of packing the requisite lunch foods, consider breakfast items instead. Maybe your child will enjoy a banana wrapped in a pancake or yogurt topped with crunchy granola. A mini bagel packaged with an individual serving of cream cheese and jelly could fit the bill, too. As long as your child is eating a healthy, balanced meal, it doesn't matter what the foods may be.

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