• Serve familiar foods in unfamiliar ways. Fix “ants on a log” (celery sticks filled with cream cheese and dotted with raisins) or make an open-face sandwich (one slice bread spread with cream cheese, topped with a strawberry mouth, a nut nose, blueberry eyes and raisin eyebrows).
• Vary the way you prepare the same food: carrots can be whole, sliced in rounds, or as sticks; cheese can be cubed, sliced, in a tub or as string cheese.
• Limit the fat. If you pack a high-fat meal one day (such as a cheese sandwich and chips), give your child a lower fat selection the next day (their favorite yogurt flavor with cereal to stir in and celery sticks with almond butter).
• Offer baked chips instead of deep-fried. Serve dried fruit instead of candy. When you pack desserts, try to select those with higher nutritional value, like oatmeal cookies with raisins, graham crackers, fruit leather, or pumpkin pie.
• Celebrate special occasions. Every month has something to celebrate. Close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, surprise your child by putting a book about a famous African-American in your child’s lunch box. Cut your child’s sandwich into a heart shape on Valentine’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day, break the variety rule and pack only green foods. Provide party favors for the entire class on your child’s birthday.
• Plan surprises. Randomly include a note to your child, just because you think they’re special. Wrap a bracelet around a dried fruit package. Include a seldom-allowed “junk food.” Clip a cartoon or joke and tuck it in with their napkin.
• Make a menu. It’s a lot easier for you to pack lunches if you have the supplies on hand. And on those days when you don’t have a lot of time, pre-planned meals sure come in handy. Even as few as twenty menu ideas could help you create healthful lunches all year long. Just rotate them around to keep your child guessing what’s coming next.
• Involve your child. Be sure to include your child when planning your menus. If they suggest peanut butter and mustard sandwiches, they’re more likely to eat them! Have them help you write the grocery list, and prepare their school lunches when it’s time. If they helped fix it, they’re less likely to trade their food for another child’s “sandwich surprise.”
Resource: Vanderbilt University