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Move over PB & J: Fun and healthy lunch box ideas

Lunch is a critical meal for kids – it gives them the fuel they need to get through the rest of their busy day. With a healthy lunch in their tummies, they have the energy to learn and play. But what to pack? Sandwiches are the old standby, yet even the most flexible of eaters needs some variety. One of the best investments you can make for your child’s lunch box is an insulated thermos for soups, stews, and pastas. Here are some other lunch box ideas beyond pb & j :

Smoothies: Whip up a smoothie with milk, fruit and some crushed ice and put it in your child’s thermos for a filling and nutritious drink. Try peanut butter, banana, milk and a dash of honey or blueberries, banana and vanilla yogurt. This is also a great way to get more fruit into your kid’s diet. 

Cheese and whole grain crackers with fruit and raw veggies

Peanut butter in a Tupperware (you can even buy single-serve peanut butter) with apples, bananas, pretzels, or crackers to dip

Pasta salad in a Tupperware (hold the mayo)

A sandwich without the bread – i.e., turkey, salami or ham and cheese roll-ups

Think breakfast for lunch – you can pack baggies of dry cereal, yogurt tubes, raisins and sliced strawberries. A bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese or a whole grain muffin are other good choices.

Lunch box desserts can be somewhat healthy – pudding made with milk has lots of calcium and vitamin D; you can pack some strawberries for dipping as well. Homemade cookies are always better than store bought – try substituting some of the flour for whole wheat or oatmeal to sneak in some extra vitamins.

And the final necessary ingredient for your child’s lunch box? A note from mom, of course!

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Rachael Ray