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School Lunches: Going Beyond Peanut Butter

Still sticking to peanut butter sandwiches for school lunches? They're a brown bagger's favorite, but today's markets offer lots of new options.

Some children will refuse any changes to their lunch routine and that's OK as long as what you've been sending with them is nourishing. Every week or so, parents should try to slip in something different. A variety of foods gives children a variety of nutrients and expands their palates.

Lunches should include protein, such as meat, cheese or nuts, and lean more heavily on grains, fruits and vegetables. Keep sweets and fats to a minimum.

Here are some ideas to chew on:

  • Enliven a meat and cheese sandwich with baby spinach.

  • Try tortilla wraps, bagels, pita bread, whole-wheat crackers or bread sticks.

  • Consider including hummus with your child's favorite veggies for dipping.

  • Substitute fresh berries for apples or bananas.

  • Offer pretzels or popcorn instead of potato chips.

  • Trade sugary drinks like soda for milk or pure fruit juice.

  • Keep foods like chicken salad cool by packing a carton of milk or juice frozen earlier.

A week's menus

Monday: Chicken salad with whole-wheat crackers for dipping, plus baby carrots and a package of string cheese.

Tuesday: Tortilla wrap of turkey breast, Swiss cheese, plus cherry tomatoes, a bag of pretzels and a tangerine.

Wednesday: Three mini-bagels filled with Canadian bacon and low-fat cream cheese, plus broccoli, a bag of popcorn and a cluster of grapes.

Thursday: Tuna salad with bread sticks for dipping, plus zucchini sticks, a packet of dry-roasted nuts and a half-cup of blueberries.

Friday: Pita bread stuffed with cheddar cheese and cucumber slices, plus some oat squares and a serving of pineapple chunks.