(Family Features) - It's a dilemma parents all over the country face - how to come up with healthy lunches kids will actually eat.
The first step is to get the kids involved in planning. They are much more likely to eat foods they choose and help make themselves.
Terese Allen, Organic Valley food editor, suggests establishing a theme for each day of the school week. "You'll save thinking cap time if Monday is soup day, Tuesday is sandwich day, and so on," she says. "Keep a file of recipes for each day's theme, and on the weekend select one from each file for the week ahead."
Try to include fiber-loaded fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, calcium-rich dairy products and lean proteins. "Add in things like roasted nuts, yogurt cups, corn chips and salsa, veggies and dip, and pretzels and barbecue sauce," says Allen. "And don't forget ready-to-eat edibles, such as Organic Valley Stringles cheese sticks, or beef jerky and deli slices from Organic Prairie. Single-serve milks from Organic Valley are a good addition, too - since they're shelf-stable you don't have to worry about refrigeration."
A daily theme, a homemade main dish and no-fuss sides: the result? Wholesome lunches and happy kids. For more healthy lunch ideas and recipes, visit www.organicvalley.coop.
by Terese Allen for Organic Valley
Instead of giving them cash to buy junk food, give them coins they can actually eat-that is, offer a balanced meal of round, coin-shaped edibles.
- Cucumber slices
- Green or yellow zucchini slices
- Thick asparagus spears, blanched and cut crosswise
- Broccoli stems, peeled and slice into rounds
- Sliced radishes
- Carrot coins
- Organic Prairie Hot Dogs, cooked, cooled and cut into rounds
- Organic Prairie Italian Chicken Sausage or Bratwurst, cooked, cooled and cut into rounds
- Organic Prairie Pepperoni
- Sliced dried bananas
- Dried apricots
- Fruit leather, cut into rounds
- Sliced kiwi
- Organic Valley Stringles, cut crosswise into rounds
- Organic Valley deli sliced cheese
- Oyster crackers
- Small, round pretzels
- Small, round corn tortilla chips
- Round ravioli, cooked and cooled
- Garbanzo beans*
Let your child choose his or her favorites from the array of finger foods above. Pack the little piles of "coins" into a rectangular container to make a lunch-size treasure chest.
*Call these "gold nuggets" instead of coins--and offer nuggets in other colors, too (think peas, blueberries, grapes, etc.)