* Actual time for eating lunch at most schools only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes and is filled with distractions. Make sure the lunch foods you pack are easy to eat, packed in easily opened packages, and don't require peeling or special tools.
* Small children may not eat very much at one sitting. Think about packing appetizers instead of a large sandwich and whole banana. You can also include more choices if the quantity of each is smaller. Fill a mini muffin tin with small amounts of foods, wrap with foil, and pack into the lunch box.
* Small foods are not only easier for children to handle, but they are more fun to eat. Cut sandwiches into smaller pieces, use tiny tortillas for wraps and small sandwich buns, serve baby carrots and peel and cut fruit into smaller pieces to interest your child in the foods you pack.
* Think about different types of bread for sandwiches and dippers. Try crackers, mini waffles, rice cakes, mini croissants, pita bread, mini muffins, small bagels, tortillas, focaccia, raisin or cinnamon bread.
* If your child wants the same thing day after day, go ahead and pack it, as long as the overall meal is nutritious and you are sure your child eats it. Kids don't like a lot of change in what they eat. Did you know that it takes 10 to 12 introductions to a new food before a child is usually willing to even taste it?
* Take some time to look at the prepackaged lunches in your grocer's refrigerated section. These appeal to kids, but aren't very nutritious. You can pack the same types of snack foods, but use healthier choices for more kid appeal.
* Salsa, hummus, bean dips, or fruit dips with baked chips and veggies or fruit are good lunchbox choices, since these foods contain more vitamins and fiber.
* Make sure to think about food safety. Freeze juice boxes or small gel packs and place in the bag. The juice will keep other foods cool and will thaw to just the right temperature and consistency by lunchtime. Use an insulated thermos for hot foods like soups and stews, and cold salads too. For best results, rinse out a thermos with very hot water to heat it before adding hot soups. Rinse it out with ice water to chill the thermos before adding cold soups.
* If you make your own snack mixes, you can include healthy additions like dried fruits, unsalted nuts, pretzels, and baked crackers. Kids love to munch on something crunchy and sweet or savory.
* Instead of making sandwiches, consider packing individual sandwich ingredients to let your child make their own sandwich at lunch, or eat the ingredients separately. Many children don't like to eat more than one food at a time, since their sense of taste is very intense.
* Cereal bars can pack a lot of nutrition into a food kids love to eat. Include raisins, currants, or other dried fruits in the recipe for additional flavor, color and nutrition.
* Make sure to include something fun - a sticker, cookies wrapped in plastic wrap with a ribbon tie, sandwiches cut into playful shapes, or meats and cheeses or fruits threaded on a caramel apple stick (which is safer than a traditional kabob stick).
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