Delicious, Colorful, and Healthy School Lunch Box Ideas

These fresh ideas for school lunch meet all the criteria for success: ease of preparation, nutrition, colorful presentation, and involvement from your child
Making a healthy school lunch for your child every day—one he will actually eat—can be a tall order. Before pulling the covers over your head and wishing it were summer vacation, or at the very least Saturday, take some advice from experts who’ve been there, done that, and delivered some pretty amazing food along the way.

Arguing the Case for a Good Lunch, Layer by Layer

“Applying the principles of good lunchmaking now will have a big impact later when they go out on their own,” says Laura Pasetta, a health and nutrition expert. She notices her own teenage daughters making better food choices, a behavior she attributes to what she packed in their lunches starting back in kindergarten. “There’s the opportunity to teach them the fundamentals of nutrition, which is something cafeteria lunches seldom provide—not to mention the huge amount of money you save by making lunches at home vs. buying them.”

Pasetta, who demonstrates how to make lunches in her DVD The Visual Guide: How To Make a Healthy Lunch for Kids, says there are seven steps, or “layers” as she calls them, to the art of successful lunchmaking. It starts with a theme, for example Mexican fiesta, Asian, or Italian, and then the theme is built upon in the lunch. Presentation is key, especially with young kids. It could be something as simple as including a paper napkin with a child’s favorite character on it. Pasetta has gone so far as to include place mats tied to the day’s theme in her children’s lunches. Using a fun yet practical lunch container is also important, and something the child can choose. Food, of course, is always the main event, and Pasetta makes sure to include a substantial main course, a vegetable, a fruit, a beverage, and a snack.

“Hands-on” Wins, Hands Down

Kiersten Firquain of Kansas City, Mo., is quite familiar with serving healthy lunches to school-age kids. Known as “Chef K,” she started her company, Bistro Kids, after becoming dissatisfied with what her own son was eating at school. Through the Bistro Kids Farm 2 School lunch program, Firquain partners with local farmers and food producers to provide kid-friendly, all-natural, fresh meals. “Nutrition education is a big part of our program, and it really facilitates healthy eating choices in kids,” she says. Toward that end, her company ensures that each school it services has a garden. Bistro Kids also provides cooking classes and field trips so students can really experience the food they eat, where it came from, and how it’s prepared.

It’s an odd phenomenon, but as an example kids who wouldn’t touch store-bought tomatoes suddenly can’t get enough of the fruit when they grow or at least pick some themselves. You’ll find this hands-on experience extends itself to many other kinds of fruits and vegetables and opens up a world of healthy and diverse eating. “Take them to a farm…or at least a farmers market if it’s not practical to start your own garden…and buy what’s seasonal,” Pasetta says. “It helps keep things interesting. I’ve turned my daughters on to passion fruit and kumquats!”

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