5 tips to pack a lunch your kids will actually eat

Sara Vanden Berge svandenberge@empiretribune.com
Dietitians Ellen Wells (left) and Laurie Lively give a presentation to students at Central Elementary on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.

A new school year is underway and with it comes the dreaded routine of packing those lunches.

Finding the right foods to satisfy your picky eater can be daunting, so we reached out to Laurie Lively, a local dietitian with Texas Health Harris Stephenville, for a few tips on ways to keep your child from going hungry during the school day.

“One of the things I am doing this year is letting my daughter choose her own foods for lunch,” Lively said. “I am going to have bins of proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables and a treat. She will pick one from each bin to go in her lunch every day.”

The task is fun, Lively says, and teaches lessons on making healthy food choices and responsibility.

Here are a few things she plans to put inside those clever bins:

1. PROTEIN: Lively said she plans to give boiled eggs a try this year. She will also include lean meats like ham and turkey rolled up with cheese.

2. GRAINS: Whole wheat pitas are perfect to spread with peanut butter or cut into strips and dipped in hummus or tzatziki sauce, Lively said. Other healthy choices include whole wheat crackers and whole wheat tortillas. “If you’re going to use bread, always use whole wheat,” she said.

3. FRUIT: When it comes to this food group, Lively says you can’t go wrong.

“Any fruit is a good fruit. Give them what they like.”

Apples, bananas, peaches, strawberries and oranges pack well. Fruit cups are also good as long as they are packed in fruit juice. Dried fruit is ok, just don’t overdo it. “You don’t want to give them anything coated in sugar or packed in syrup,” she said.

4. VEGETABLES: When it comes to veggies, raw is better. Think baby carrots, sliced cucumber and snow peas. And for an extra treat, don’t be afraid to give them a little Ranch for dipping.

5: TREATS: To avoid processed foods, goodies like Rice Krispy treats and oatmeal/raisin cookies are better made from scratch rather than store-bought. Other tasty options include a handful of chocolate chips and blueberry/oatmeal muffins.

“Once we made ‘donuts’ - slice apples crosswise and cut out core to make donut hole. Spread strawberry yogurt as icing and top with sprinkles. My kids loved it!”