Lunch Doesn't Have To Be Complicated

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A simple but creative lunch featuring a turkey

Why stress over your child's lunch menu when you can keep it simple and healthy? The important thing is that your child gets a nutritious lunch and beverage, which will give him/her enough energy for the rest of the day, or at least until snack.  You don't need to roll out a seven course meal to accomplish this – afterall, their bodies are small and their next encounter with food is probably right around the corner. Here are some ideas and tips:

Make every calorie count. Just like when they were newborns, we don't want to be giving our children junk food. So don't reach for the fruit chews, cookies or chips. Instead, pack carrot sticks, raisins, apple slices or whole grain crackers in your child's lunch. If you give them candy, that might be the first and only thing they eat and if they are going to put anything in that little body, why not make it healthy and save the treats for later.

Stick to what you know. There is no reason to get elaborate with lunch. Figure out what your child likes to eat and repeat these choices week after week while layering in some new ideas. Also, you can take an old fave and change it up slightly. For instance, if your child likes turkey and cheese on whole wheat, try a wrap one day and cut them into "pinwheels;" the next week, you could try a wrap on a whole wheat tortilla or on a colorful tortilla, such as spinach or sundried tomato flavors.

Keep it simple. Whether your child is taking lunch to school or you are serving it at home, try something as simple as all-natural peanut butter (the kind that only has peanut butter, with no added sugar) on whole wheat crackers with a side of yogurt and a side of fruit. While protein is important, doesn't have to be meat everytime and in fact, the fruit is the most important part of this meal.

Don't forget the drink. The drink you give your child counts too. Forget about sodas or any other sugared beverage. Try 100% juice or reduced fat milk. You can get both of these in boxes now, and if you are worried they'll warm up by lunch, keep them in the freezer so that by lunch your child will have a slushy cold drink.

If you are sending your child to camp or school, ask the person in charge to tell you when there will be sweets served. Often, there is a birthday or some other kind of celebration and you find out the next day that your child had a doughnut or a brownie. It is important to know this the day of the event so that you can avoid giving your child too many treats in one day and drop dessert after dinner. Either way, this is another reason to omit a high-fat or sugary treat from their lunch box.