686430874_c96b2a05aa_zThe kids are back to school and the regularly scheduled insanity begins (as opposed to the unscheduled variety that takes over in the summer months). One of the things many parents need to deal with on a daily basis is what to pack for their child’s lunch. We want it to be healthy, we want it to be interesting, and we want it to be something our child will actually eat.

That last one can be the problem, can’t it? Most kids have some idiosyncrasies that make this job more difficult than you’d think. My daughter loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but put anything else between bread and she won’t eat it. Cheese? She loves it — just not between two slices of bread. This is easily fixed by sending her with cheese and some crackers, but it still makes me wonder what goes on in that little head.

I’m just going to throw a few ideas your way for things you can do to change up what you normally pack. If some stick, great. But do keep in mind that kids don’t seem to mind eating the same thing every day, so don’t sweat it if the same ham and cheese sandwich and celery sticks ends up going with him or her five days a week.

Leftovers: get a small thermos that you can send almost anything in. Heat the thermos by putting very hot water in it when you first get up in the morning, then microwave your leftovers and put them in the dried out thermos. It doesn’t keep them totally hot, but it helps a lot. Pasta works great — just drizzle with a little olive oil and add some parmesan cheese. Leftover Chinese? Sure — heat the rice and main course and stick them in. Indian food? Same thing. I like cold leftover meatloaf; and cold pizza is a hit with a lot of us. Pretty much anything you find in the fridge and know your kid likes should work.

Cold noodle or grain salads work well. Sliced meats wrapped around cheese or avocado are delicious and a little more fun to eat than sandwiches. Hummus or guacamole with crackers, pita toasts, tortillas or vegetables for dipping are great. Try cheese with crackers and cut up vegetables on the side. Hard boiled or devilled eggs are a good source of protein, as are bean salads (and you can finely chop some vegetables to add to these and make them pretty and even healthier).

I hope I’ve given you at least one new idea that helps make packing a lunch easier. But if you end up packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a box of raisins every single day and your kid loves it, then you’re doing a great job.

Basic Bean Salad

I’ll often make it as a side for dinner and plan to make extra so that I can pack some in the next few days for my daughter’s lunch. I play around with this one a lot. Add what you have that seems like it might be tasty; leave out the things you (or your child) don’t like.

Can or two of rinsed black beans (you can use any bean that appeals)

2-4 thinly chopped scallions

Frozen corn – take a cup or two from the bag, rinse under hot water to defrost, drain and add to the salad

Halved grape tomatoes

Minced jalapeno (if your kid can deal with the heat)

Cilantro (again, if your child is a cilantro fan)

Lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir it all up together and enjoy. This is very easy, healthy and tasty.

image by Tarnie via flickr