Getting kids to eat the right things at home is hard enough, but at school—where they can see what everyone else is eating—it's downright challenging. That's fine, because with a bit of creativity you can pack an A+ lunch that'll put your youngster at the top of the class.
No matter where lunch-making leads you, start with the best and freshest ingredients. If you have a high-end fridge such as Samsung's line of French-door models with multi-zone temperature control, it's easy. You can keep cold cuts and lunch meats extra-cold for freshness, while catering to delicate lettuce and crunchy vegetables with the slightly warmer temperatures they prefer.
The Mid-Morning Snack
Getting hungry by mid-morning is a reality for lots of fast-growing kids, especially if they're slow starters or reluctant eaters at breakfast. For a sustaining recess-time treat, stud your favorite biscuit dough with small cubes of diced cheese and pepperoni, then layer it with pizza sauce into muffin pans. Pizza-muffin snacks are fun, and it's a lot easier to focus in class with a happy tummy.
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...
Stacking up your sandwich ingredients like a deck of cards is pretty ordinary. Remember those pinwheel sandwiches your granny used to serve to her bridge club? Just ask the baker to run your bread lengthwise through the slicer, and roll up your youngster's favorite fillings in the longitudinal loaf.
Fill 'er Up
Salad-type fillings work well in pinwheel sandwiches, from the humble egg salad to more deluxe, imaginative offerings. Try a salad of lean chicken, with diced pieces of red and green apple for color and crunch. With or without a leaf of lettuce, it's a winner.
Who says your bread has to be bread? Flour tortillas can make fun, sushi-like rolled sandwiches. Spread a tortilla with low-fat mayo or sweet mustard, then cover it with lettuce, cheese, and a selection of your student's favorite cold cuts. Spread the lip of the tortilla with cream cheese "glue," to seal the edges, then roll it into a cylinder 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick.
Pretty It Up
Cut the sandwich log crosswise into tight, 1/2-inch sushi-sized rolls, and put them in their own container with a lettuce leaf underneath. If your youngster is a picky eater, choosing brightly-colored tortillas is one way to sneak a bit of additional vegetable goodness into the lunch. Sweet cherry tomatoes in multiple colors also make an eye-appealing garnish.
Fruit On a Stick
Adding some fruit to lunch is always a good idea, but just plopping it into the ol' lunch box won't get you many style points. Instead, pick up a package of the long toothpicks used for holding together club sandwiches. Assemble a mixture of skewer-friendly fruit, such as grapes, sliced strawberries, melon or pineapple. It's even better if you use some of your cookie cutters to turn the fruit into hearts or stars.
Go For a Dip
Arrange three to four pieces of fruit on each pick, and pack them up with a sealed cup of tasty dip. Lightly sweetened or fruit-flavored yogurt are good choices, and so are calorie-reduced vanilla, caramel or chocolate pudding.
Frame Your Art
After putting your time and creativity into making super-cool lunches, don't just stack everything into a plain old brown bag. Instead, invest in a lunch container with bento box-style compartments. Kids eat with their eyes, just like grown-ups do, and opening the container to find a beautiful, well-displayed meal lends anticipation to every lunchtime.
Make it Personal
An extra-special lunch shows them you care, but saying it doesn't hurt either. A quick note slipped into the lunch, with a happy, loving message can make your child feel extra-cherished. If you have a Wi-Fi®–enabled printer, you can print notes directly from your tablet or smartphone while you're assembling lunch and breakfast.