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    Children's lunches don't have to be boring. You can always liven them up with something a little bit different. A new school year is the perfect time to try some all-new lunch box treats!

    Get your kids involved in the planning and packing process. At the grocery store, they can help in the food selection. Of course, this may require a little compromise! Or at home, try brainstorming a list of lunches that you both agree on. A fun way to do this is to make a chart for each child listing their favorite ingredients. From this list they can select the components of their sandwiches. This works best when your pantry, refrigerator and freezer are well stocked with a wide variety of foods from which to choose.

    You can even let the kids create their own sandwiches, by mixing and matching the ingredients on the list. Some days they may prefer to make their favorite old standby; other days they might feel like experimenting with unusual combinations. Just make sure they choose foods that are nutritious, easy to eat, and not messy. Finger foods are best for younger children, and be sure to peel or cut fruits that need it. Plan lunches in advance and pack them the night before, if possible.

    An ordinary lunch box food that can be made into a fun-to-eat treat is bologna, by dressing it up like a hot dog. Take a slice of bologna, top it with a slice of cheese, and roll them up together. Place in a hot dog bun and top with mustard and/or ketchup. Add a pickle and some potato chips on the side.

    Even the most devoted PB&J fans enjoy a little variety now and then. Try combining one of the following ingredients with the peanut butter: sliced bananas, sliced apples, raisins, grated carrots, brown sugar, honey, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or marshmallow cream.

    Sandwiches aren't always required, either. Depending on your child's appetite, their lunch may be as simple as a leftover dinner roll with a piece of cheese and an apple; or string cheese and ham sticks along with a honey mustard sauce for dipping; or try the recipe below to make a delicious main course in a muffin.

    Ranch Muffins

    2 cups flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoons oregano
    teaspoon salt
    cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    cup diced ham or smoked turkey
    teaspoon chili powder or crushed red pepper
    cup vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    cup milk
    cup chopped black olives

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, oregano, salt, Cheddar cheese, ham and chili powder (or red pepper) in a large bowl; mix well. In a separate large bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, milk and black olives. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture; mix well. Spoon batter into well-greased muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let muffins cool before removing from pans. Makes 1 dozen. Keep refrigerated. Serve for brunch, lunch, or with a salad as a main course.

    Apple Oatmeal Bars

    1 cup oatmeal
    tsp. salt
    cup butter
    1 cup flour
    tsp. cinnamon
    2 cups apples, chopped or cup apple butter (omit cinnamon)
    cup sugar

    Combine the first five ingredients, and pat half into an 8x8 inch pan. Layer apples and sugar. Crumble remaining mixture on top. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Super Salad Pitas

    One way to get kids to eat vegetables is in a pocket pita. For this, your kids can help out. Go to the supermarket and get an assortment of vegetables and salad greens. Have the kids wash all the dark-leaf lettuce before putting it away. They can drop it into a sink full of cold water, give it a few rinses, and then have their way with a salad spinner. Wrap the clean greens in a towel or place in a veggie bag and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Having everything ready makes it a lot easier to add salad greens and other fresh vegetables to lunches. Carrots can be peeled and stored in a container filled with water. When it's time to make the pita sandwich, combine as many veggies as you want, add some grated or cottage cheese, perhaps some cubed ham, maybe even some couscous, along with a tablespoon of salad dressing. For a less drippy sandwich, toss the vegetables with the salad dressing before putting them in the pocket.

    You-Can-Be-in-My-Club Sandwich

    Kids will like this one because it's layered, plus the crusts are removed. Take two bread slices, cut them in half, and cut the crusts off. Spread one slice with mustard and top it with a slice of ham and a piece of your child's favorite cheese. Cover the second bread slice with mayonnaise and sliced chicken or turkey. Spread the third slice with mayonnaise, and top it with tomato and cucumber slices. Stack the layers, put the fourth bread slice on top, and cut them in half. You can vary the ingredients, and you might even use two different kinds of bread.



  • Bagel
  • Croissant
  • Dinner Roll
  • English Muffin
  • Hamburger Bun
  • Hot Dog Bun
  • Kaiser Roll
  • Onion Roll
  • Pocket Pita
  • Potato Bread
  • Rye Bread
  • Sesame Bun
  • Tortilla
  • White Bread
  • Whole Grain
  • Whole Wheat Bread

    Cold Cuts/Leftovers

  • Beef Jerky
  • Bologna
  • Chicken
  • Chinese Noodles
  • Couscous
  • Ham
  • Hard-boiled Eggs
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Pizza Slices
  • Rice Dishes
  • Roast Beef
  • Salami
  • Soup or Chili in a Thermos
  • Turkey


  • Chicken Salad
  • Cream Cheese
  • Egg Salad
  • Honey
  • Hummus
  • Jam/Jelly
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Miracle Whip
  • Mustard
  • Peanut Butter
  • Refried Beans
  • Salad Dressing
  • Salsa
  • Tuna Salad


  • Avocado
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Carrot/Celery Sticks
  • Coleslaw
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Three-Bean Salad
  • Tomato


  • American
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Mild Cheddar
  • Monterey Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • String Cheese Sticks
  • Swiss

    Side Dishes

  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Hard-Boiled Egg
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Potato Chips
  • Potato Salad
  • Rice Cakes
  • Saltine Crackers
  • Tortilla Chips


  • Apple
  • Applesauce
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Canned Peaches
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fruit Cocktail
  • Fruit Salad
  • Granola
  • Grapes
  • Melon
  • Orange
  • Pineapple Slices
  • Raisins
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Trail Mix


  • Brownie
  • Cake or Pie Slice
  • Cinnamon Roll
  • Cookies
  • Doughnut
  • Frosted Cereal
  • Graham Crackers
  • Granola Bar
  • Jello
  • Marshmallows
  • Muffin
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt


  • Fruit Juice
  • Lemonade
  • White Milk
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Seltzer Water

    Make it Special

    Cut sandwiches into diamonds, triangles, rectangles, or other fun shapes using cookie cutters. Wrap foods in colored plastic. Colorful napkins also add a nice touch. Once in a while, be sure to pack a lunch box surprise (like a Hershey's Kiss, a sticker, a note of encouragement, an inspiring quote, a cartoon picture, a joke or riddle). It's a simple gesture that will let your kids know your thoughts are with them even when they are at school.

    Recommended Websites
    (Comprehensive list of links for back to school nutrition, lunch box treats, brown bag ideas, recipes, etc.)
    (Kid-made lunches, and leftovers that make lunch.) bag lunch tips and recipes.) to school lunch ideas.)
    (10 tips for packing a healthy lunch for kids.)


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    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
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