11 Tips for Healthy Bagged Lunches

Healthy eating, just like all healthy habits, has its part in keeping kids smoke free. Yet finding ways to keep our kids' homemade lunches healthy and satisfying-and tasty enough that they'll eat them-can feel like an ongoing battle. One thing to remember is that kids aren't gourmets needing something new and inventive every day. If you can find a couple of lunches they like, they'll eat the same meals over and over again. Still, it never hurts to mix things up and see if you can find a few new items to add to their lunch staples. Try these ideas and surprise your kids with meals that will make them smile.

  1. Skip the sandwich bread and use whole-grain tortilla rolls instead. Slice the rolls into diagonals for fun kid-sized shapes
  2. Serve meat roll-ups: turkey and cucumber, ham and cheese, roast beef and red pepper
  3. Quickie Quesadilla: Pile veggies and cheese on a whole-grain tortilla and melt in the microwave. Serve hot or cold
  4. Breakfast for lunch: Pack whole-grain mini-waffles with peanut butter* or honey or a healthy cereal with fruit toppings for lunch
  5. Lunch side picnic: Pack cheese and crackers, grapes and apple slices
  6. Kabobs - cut bite-size portions of foods your kids love and skewer them together - anything from chicken and pasta to veggies and fruit
  7. Stuffed potato - pack a white or sweet potato and pack the side items - bacon bits, broccoli, pecans, cheese, etc.
  8. New PB&J - try a rice cake spread with peanut butter and jelly
  9. Hard-boiled eggs are full of protein and make great meals. Or, if your kids love scrambled eggs, put cold scrambled eggs between sandwich bread with a slice of tomato for a breakfast sandwich
  10. Soup and salad - lots of kids love warm soup and if you give them the toppings they like, they're happy to build their own salad
  11. Side items: apple slices with peanut butter, carrots in ranch dressing, ants on a log (- celery stuffed with cream cheese and topped with raisins), string cheese, yogurt tubes

One additional tip: put something in your kids' lunch that they'll look forward to besides food. Try including a written encouraging note from mom or dad on a napkin, some stickers at the bottom of the lunch bag or-if your kids have made their own lunches all week-maybe a small gift card to their favorite store.

*If your child's school doesn't allow peanut butter, any nut butter makes a good alternative. Try almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower butter.