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Healthy School Lunches Kids Will Actually Eat

40 Real-LifeTips from Real Moms
  -- By Samantha Donohue, Contributor
Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but lunch runs a close second. Studies have shown that children who eat a well-balanced lunch often do better in school and are more alert. It can be difficult enough to get your child to eat right when you're there to monitor what he or she eats. But in the cafeteria, where the temptations of pizza, vending machines and other unhealthy snacks await, you have to up your game to get kids to actually eat what you've packed.

To help you provide healthy lunches for your family, we asked members and experts for tips and advice on packing kids' lunches.

First of all, remember that it's not your lunch. If you pack broccoli and your son hates it, he won't eat it. Let your kids weigh in on what they want to pack in their lunches, and offer them a few healthy choices so they feel like they're in control.

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A Balanced Meal
Include something from each food group, but be creative. Here are some tips for creating a well-balanced meal. <pagebreak>

Whole grains
Dairy Protein
More Mom-Tested Tips
Here what community team members are doing to make lunch fun, tasty and healthy for their kids.

LISAMARIE55 uses a thermos for both warm and cold food items. Pasta salad with diced tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and carrots, with an olive oil-based dressing, is a great lunch. In the winter, put veggie soup in the thermos. To sneak in extra vegetables, add shredded veggies (zucchini, carrots or celery) to tuna or chicken salad.

JAKE_ADAMSMOMMY likes to pack string cheese, grapes, carrot sticks, and cheese-and-cracker sandwiches that her kids can put together themselves.

COOKIECHRISTIAN likes to keep lunchtime fun with the following ideas: bagel sandwiches, celery sticks filled with peanut butter or cream cheese, carrot sticks, cucumber, "trees" (cauliflower and broccoli) with ranch dressing, frozen tubes of yogurt (they thaw by lunch), dried fruits, black olives, fruit kabobs with pineapple, melon, and berries, chips and cheese or bean dip, guacamole and pico de gallo for kids to assemble themselves.

LUV4MY3BOYS likes to include as many food groups as possible in her sons' lunches. She fills celery with peanut butter and raisins and uses a cookie cutter to make heart-shaped peanut butter sandwiches. She chooses whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, and all-fruit preserves. For something sweet, she includes yogurt and granola with fresh fruit, apples dipped in peanut butter, homemade oatmeal raisin cookies, and trail mix.

KIMMER322 loves cutting up fresh fruits such as pears, bananas, apples and grapes and tossing them with vanilla yogurt.

TAMMYBEE5 likes to pack sliced carrots and cucumbers and fruit salad.

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Want to get kids off to a healthy start this school year? So does SparkPeople! With "A Month of Fun and Healthy School Lunches," you'll end the food fight and get kids excited about packing lunch--with fun yet simple meals they'll actually eat. Written by a mother of three, with 50 easy and healthy recipes plus plenty of ideas tested by real moms in real life, this e-book turns lunchtime into fun time! Bonus: You'll also get 25 healthy, kid-friendly after-school snack ideas! Click here to check it out!