What's in Your Lunch Box?

Parents have a lot to think about these days when it comes to raising their children. With so many interest groups clamoring for a moment to discuss the latest theories and potential mine fields of parenting it can mean an endless checklist of must dos and please don'ts.

When it comes to their children parents only want the best. Unfortunately that 'best' is undefined, subjective, and always evolving. Yet amidst all the postulating there is one subject everyone agrees on.

What parents put in their children's lunches matter. Good food equals good children? Not exactly, but the consensus is that healthy food choices create optimal learning experiences and fuel activity.

What this really means?

More reasons for parents to stress. Are children getting enough healthy options? How many vegetables for full serving, and do potato chips count? Should all the grains be whole wheat?

Add it all to the problem of packing it into cartoon lunch boxes and subjecting it to the scrutiny of the classroom and the recipe for stress is complete.

There are many challenges to creating a balanced, nutritious meal for children to take with them to school, but with a little creativity and ingenuity this is one part of parenting that does not need to cause stress.

Bake

Spend an afternoon or an evening getting in touch with your inner Rachel Ray and cook up enough treats to last all week.

Get creative

Bagels and cream cheese make for a nice alternative to a traditional sandwich. Pizza bagels with cheese and a few slices of pepperoni and shredded ham is another delicious option. Cheese and crackers with a cup of yogurt and strawberries is nutritional and filling. Save money and make your own cheese sticks. Buy a brick of mild cheese, cut them to the desired length and wrap individually.

Get sneaky

Make muffins with carrots, zucchini, and other healthy vegetables without tipping off the sensitive taste buds of your children. Make homemade granola bars that have chopped apples, cinnamon and ground flax seeds for a balanced treat with minimal sugar.

Go green

Reuse and recycle last night's dinner. Make an extra batch of homemade, whole grain waffles Sunday morning for Monday's lunch. Spread with a thick layer of Nutella. Yum!

Have fun

Send whole grain tortilla chips with a container of salsa and a bag of shredded cheese. Add some super healthy guacamole (call it monster guts for the reluctant eater). Make kabobs. Alternate between favorite fruit or a mixture of fruit and cheese and top it off with a marshmallow, or use cooked meat and different vegetables. Make a simple dip for fruit using yogurt and a frozen whipped topping.

Save yourself time and strife and prepare lunches the night before. You may even find time to sneak in a love note. It could even be a smiley face written in edible marker on their sandwich! And remember, parents are the real experts, if we want our children to have a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles during their nutrition break let it be so.

    Editor's Note: Karen Pasqualucci is a passionate, lifelong learner. She is an author, artist, entrepreneur, internationally accomplished speaker/trainer, a third degree black belt in Taijitsu and a homeschool mom of three. She shares her newest insights on her blog at Stress Relief thru Doodling and gives away free Mandalas simply to make you as addicted as she is to the pleasures of Mandalas. Come and get 'em!

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