Lunch on a stick:
Buy a package of stirring sticks in the coffee-tea aisle of a supermarket and use them instead of sharp skewers to make fruit kebabs, vegetable kebabs and other creations. Thread breads, meats, cheeses and vegetables on a coffee stirrer for a sandwich-on-a-stick. Thread slices of turkey pepperoni, tomato, wedges of pita bread, salami slices and chunks of a mozzarella cheese stick on a coffee stirrer for pizza-on-a-stick. Thread chunks of ham, cheese and lettuce on a coffee stirrer to make a chef's- salad-on-a-stick.
Make deli-style wrap sandwiches with tortillas (preferably whole wheat). Roll up and serve whole or sliced, crosswise, into sections to display the filling. Spread peanut butter on one side of a tortilla, top with slices of fruit, sprinkle with granola and roll. Another option is to fill with thinly sliced roasted meats and thinly sliced vegetables and roll.
Pack a plastic sandwich bag with cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, sugar snap peas, baby carrots and celery sticks. Occasionally offer hummus, salsa, peanut butter or a low-fat ranch salad dressing for dipping.
Cut up leftovers from dinner, including cold leftover pizza. For younger children, cut meats off the bone and dice into bite-sized pieces. Children tend to be less particular than adults about the temperature of foods they enjoy.
Layer yogurt with fresh fruit and granola in a sealed plastic container; freeze, if desired, and it should be mostly thawed by lunchtime.
Measure 100-calorie portions of popcorn (a whole-grain food), baked chips, pita chips and pretzels into plastic sandwich bags and store in a basket at home. Grab as needed for lunches and after-school snacks.
Sources: Cathy Straub, Carrie Miller