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Published: Sunday, 8/17/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Pack some fun into your child’s lunch

BY MARY BILYEU
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Old MacDonald’s Farm theme: And on his farm he had some cows, which produce milk, and "pigs" that he might tuck into blankets. Old MacDonald’s Farm theme: And on his farm he had some cows, which produce milk, and "pigs" that he might tuck into blankets.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

School lunches are often a letdown for kids. We’ve all seen the detritus left behind after children have picked at some items and traded others away.

Parents are constantly frustrated by kids who don’t want the same old sandwich, those who will only eat two foods, or those who want an item one day only to be bored by it the next. Kids look forward to the midday break, and want to find something fun and delicious when they open their lunchboxes.

How can lunches be made more exciting, more enticing? How can we lessen the stress and the wasted food? How can we keep from throwing the lunchbox under the bus and dancing joyfully when it gets run over?

Let’s start with some themes, and try to make school lunches more like a party.

For young children, a cute idea would be an Old MacDonald’s Farm theme. And on his farm he had some chickens, which lay eggs to make into a salad. And on his farm he had some cows, which produce milk, and pigs that he might tuck into blankets.

The farmer also would grow lots of vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. You can buy farm cookies or animal crackers to complete the meal.

Another suggestion is a teddy bear picnic. Bear-shaped cookie cutters are available for cutting out sandwiches, and Teddy Grahams make an easy, nottoosweet treat to include for dessert. Honey sticks would complete the theme.

Breakfast for lunch might be another creative twist on the same old thing. Spread peanut butter and jelly onto toasted whole-grain waffles, rather than onto bread, if peanut butter is permitted at your child’s school; if not, mash a banana with some maple syrup as an alternative filling. Send orange juice instead of milk, and some colorful fruits. Include oatmeal cookies as a nod to morning cereal.

A lunch sporting the colors of a favorite team would appeal to a young fan. Here is one in University of Michigan colors: Corn salsa and blue corn chips, roasted almonds, blueberries, and pineapple chunks. A lunch sporting the colors of a favorite team would appeal to a young fan. Here is one in University of Michigan colors: Corn salsa and blue corn chips, roasted almonds, blueberries, and pineapple chunks.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Superheroes are eternally popular, and a Spiderman theme is easy to complete. Not only are there myriad snack items bearing Spidey’s likeness, but the red-and-blue color scheme is easy to find. String cheese, blue and red fruits, and blue snack chips offer nutrition, while the classic Mary Jane candy — a tribute to Peter Parker'‍s faithful girlfriend — is a nice touch for a sweet treat. (Warning: Mary Janes contain peanuts.)

A lunch sporting the colors of a favorite team would be great for any young fan. Some ideas include:

● Detroit Tigers: Baby carrots, orange and white cheese cubes, blueberries, a box of Cracker Jack, and orange juice

● Toledo Mud Hens: A berry assortment (blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries), vanilla yogurt-covered raisins and — dare one suggest it? — chicken nuggets

● Cleveland Browns: Peanut butter on whole wheat bread, low-fat chocolate milk, cheese crackers, oranges, football-shaped Oreos (a seasonal item)

● University of Michigan: Corn salsa and blue corn chips, roasted almonds, blueberries, and pineapple chunks

And don’t forget cute decorations, such as paper cupcake liners with the team’s colors; small items can be placed into these festive containers. These are available at party and baking supply stores, and also online, in a tremendous variety of motifs. Napkins with the team’s colors or logo are essential.

How about a tea party theme?

Coordinate with others in your daughter’s circle of friends on the same day, then send them all with crustless finger sandwiches, mini scones, fruit, and dainty cookies along with a small container of a fruity herbal tea. A small doily under the sandwiches and scones would offer a lovely decorative touch.

Girls would probably also love a Frozen-themed lunch, complete with iced (pun intended) snowflake cookies.

Some general suggestions for livening up a lunchbox are:

● Mac ‘n’ Cheese Salad: Cooked macaroni, shredded cheese, chopped vegetables, dressing

● Mason jar salad: Use nonwilting kale or cabbage instead of lettuce and serve the dressing on the side, and the layered vegetables won’t be soggy by lunchtime

● Fruit cubes: Legos seem to be universal favorites, so take the larger Duplos (well washed, of course) and use them to cut pieces of melon into shapes, pressing to imprint the distinctive knobs into the top of the fruit.

Let’s hope that kids and parents both give these ideas an A+. But if not?

Then have your children plan and pack their own lunches, and suddenly doing homework might seem like more fun.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at: mbilyeu@theblade.com` or 419-724-6155



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