Today's lunches provided by schools are mostly a pre-packaged affair—shrink-wrapped and delivered to the school from some central location. The lunch ladies wearing hairnets, stirring huge pots of spaghetti or soup, are mostly gone now.

Many kids prefer to bring their lunch from home. But it's often hectic in the morning, so getting creative isn't easy. Here are some fun and unique school lunch ideas:

  • Use whole wheat tortillas as a sandwich wrap for an alternative to boring white bread sandwiches.

  • Fruits and veggies are funner to eat with a dip — you can send it along in a little plastic container. (Save small lidded containers from yogurt, etc. to wash out and use.) Cottage cheese can be dip for cut-up veggies and adds protein to the lunch. Fruit tastes delicious dipped in yogurt.

  • Quesadillas made with cheese, vegetables, or chicken could be made quickly in the microwave, wrapped, and then eaten cold at school.

  • Freezing a tube of yogurt the night before and packed into a lunch in the morning will be thawed but still nice and cold by lunchtime.

  • Healthy crackers and cubes of cheese are a fun alternative.

  • Try a small baggie of nuts for protein and healthy fats.

  • Most kids like cold chicken strips—another fun-to-dip food.

  • A peanut butter and jam sandwich sounds oh-so-predictable, but sometimes kids prefer it. To help make it less soggy, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread, and then spread the jam. This will help keep the jam from soaking into the bread and making it soggy.

If keeping food cold and safe is a concern, consider using an insulated lunch bag with a cold pack inside to keep food at a cold temperature until lunch time. Kids like the convenience of having a throw-away paper bag, but modern lunch bags can be tucked easily into a backpack. Getting in the habit of bringing lunch things home is great—opening up the possibilites of being able to send all sorts of small containers of fun food without worrying about whether or not you'll get the container back.

Try foods out at home first to get your child accustomed to them and to insure they are well liked before sending them off to school, to avoid having them just get tossed.

School lunch doesn't need to be boring, unhealthy, or just plain skipped! Use your creativity and imagination.

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