New Tricks for an Old Problem: Brown-bag School Lunches

by TGC Staff | September 13, 2001 12:00 am

The kids are going back to school. Once again, you are back in the kitchen packing lunches, racking your brain for something different that they will eat. Sound familiar? Experts say that children as well as adults need a wide variety of foods to achieve balanced nutrition and maximum health protection. But getting children to eat varied foods is easier said than done.

With a little creativity, persistence and nutritional savvy, however, you can entice your child into trying new foods. How you do that depends on the child. If your child clings to his PB&J when offered something different, don't try to deprive him of it. See if he'll try peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, or in a whole-grain wrap instead of the less-nutritious, refined white bread. If he accepts that, push the envelope a little more. Suggest he jazz up his sandwich with sliced bananas, or add a little crunch with slivers of cucumber or celery.

If your child agrees to try something other than her daily favorite, offer her a whole-wheat pita pocket lined with lettuce leaves and filled with chicken or tuna salad made with low-fat dressing. If your child likes ethnic foods, suggest a pita filled with hummus and shredded vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, or sprouts.

Some kids will try different foods if they are presented in an appealing way. Cut up a sandwich into triangles and trim off the crust. Or cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cutters used for making cookies and canaps.

Desserts should also be varied. Many children will eat fruit if they can dip it in yogurt, so add a small container of low-fat, flavored yogurt to the lunchbox. Kids also enjoy whole-wheat or carrot muffins, banana bread, or granola bars.

Make sure snacks are healthful, too. A bag of baked tortilla chips, along with a container of salsa, can hit the spot when kids need an energy boost. Make a trail mix with raisins or other dried fruit combined with a whole-grain cereal or air-popped popcorn.

Kids will often try a new dish if they like the main ingredients. The following, for instance, combines pasta with peanut butter (two favorites) and vegetables. Kids have so much fun enjoying the pasta twirls coated with creamy peanut butter they don't mind the vegetables.

Pasta la Peanut Butter

Makes Six 1-cup servings.



  1. Cook pasta as directed on package.
  2. Meanwhile, place snap peas in strainer, rinse with hot water and allow to thaw completely. Drain well.
  3. Drain cooked pasta and transfer to bowl. Mix in peas and bell pepper.
  4. In separate bowl or blender, combine soy sauce, oil, peanut butter and ginger. Mix until well blended. Pour over pasta mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Nutritional Information Per serving:
262 calories, 9 g. fat (2 g. saturated fat), 36 g. carbohydrate,
9 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 487 mg. sodium.

Source: AICR

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