As we send our youngsters back to school for the year, is it better to pack a lunch or let them eat in the cafeteria?


At some schools, the lunch lines are so long that children only have a few minutes to eat if they get a school lunch. So I put together this list of the top 10 school lunches for kids. These are pretty popular with youngsters, but you will have to resist the urge to send the snacks that your children ask you to pack. What works with young children is to present the food in a fun way, food on a stick, or foods you can dip in a sauce.

1. Chicken Soft Tacos

Pack a container with avocados mashed with lemon juice; top with a layer of shredded Monterey Jack before sealing. Fill 2 small whole wheat tortillas with shredded rotisserie chicken and sliced romaine lettuce and store in resealable plastic bags. Kids can put these together at lunch.

2. Chips and Dips

Chikldren love this one. Combine chopped fresh tomatoes, lime juice, finely chopped white onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Put some tortilla chips in ziplock bags. Then pack small containers of the salsa, avocados mashed with lemon juice, and Greek yogurt.

3. Meatball Sandwich

This might sound crazy, but the kids love it. Warm some frozen meatballs in jarred tomato sauce and put it in a wide-mouth thermos. Send a slice of provolone cheese in a whole wheat hamburger bun and your kids can put it together at lunch.

4. Barbecue Chicken Sloppy Joes

Toss chopped tomatoes and shredded rotisserie chicken and carrots with barbecue sauce and heat through. Toss the mixture with chopped cilantro or parsley and transfer to an airtight container. Send this in a thermos. Put a whole wheat hamburger bun in a ziplock bag and let the youngsters put it together at lunch.

5. Turkey-Cheese Pita Pockets

Spread cream cheese inside a whole wheat pita, then fill with roast turkey slices, baby spinach leaves and cucumber slices.

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6. The Elvis Burrito

One of my children loves this, but the other does not. Spread peanut butter on a toasted whole-wheat wrap, then sprinkle with crumbled bacon and drizzle with honey. Place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap, then roll, pressing gently to break the banana and form a cylinder shape. Or, slice the banana, scatter, and roll.

7. BLTA Wraps

Mash an avocado with lemon juice, then spread on a whole wheat wrap. Top with crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes, and thinly sliced romaine lettuce. Roll up and wrap in parchment or wax paper to secure.

8. Turkey Salad Rolls

Combine diced smoked turkey, toasted almonds, halved seedless red grapes, thinly sliced celery and mayonnaise. Transfer to an airtight container; pack with a whole wheat hot dog bun for your talented kid to assemble.

9. Sandwich choice

This is the old standby. Use whatever lunch meat your child likes to make the sandwich, but try this little twist: use cookie cutters to cut it into special shapes. Your children will appreciate it.

10. Peanut Butter Power Balls

These are packed with protein; just make sure your school will allow peanut butter. Some schools have banned it because of allergies. You mix peanut butter with dry milk powder raisins or chocolate chips, honey and graham cracker crumbs.