Thinking Outside the (Lu​nch) Box


Busy schedules, including work, school and extracurricular activities often cause healthy eating to fall to the wayside. Kids can end up munching on pizza, snacks and junk food, instead of freshly prepared, well-rounded meals.

As the school year approaches, it's important to consider nutritious meal and snack options for children, and one of the best ways to implement healthy eating into their diet is to make the food fun, tasty and easy to prepare. Consider the following recipes:

Popcorn-Banana Mix: Mix together popcorn and banana chips in a large bowl. Add additional treats, such as dried berries or nuts, for greater variety.

Fruity Faces: Use a fruit that can easily be cut in half, such as a grapefruit or orange. Halve the fruit. Add two grapes for the eyes and a blueberry for a nose. Use two strawberries as ears. Raisins make the smile. (For small children, halve the grapes.)

Apple Art: Slice an apple and use slivered almonds as skewer decorations on top.

Ants on a Log: Spread a celery stalk with cream cheese. Sprinkle with raisins or currants.

Icy Delight: Blend together 2 cups of ice, 1 cup juice, and 11/2 cups assorted fruit in a blender. Add more juice, if necessary. Pour into individual cups and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours. When ready to taste, remove from freezer and let sit on counter for a few minutes to thaw. Makes four servings.

Berry Delicious: Add fresh berries to yogurt. Top with granola for an extra, nutritious treat.

Fruit or Vegetable Skewers: Place a variety of fruits or vegetables, raw or cooked, on a skewer and enjoy.

Cool Carrots: Set out a bowl of carrots with three individual dipping sauces, like peanut butter, low-fat ranch dressing, Italian dressing, or avocado dip.

Banana Hot Dog: Peel a banana and place it between a slice of whole-wheat toast. Top with peanut butter or chocolate.

Whether parents make these recipes for lunch, after-school snacks or post-sports treats, children will appreciate their silly nature while eating well — and they can satisfy the adult palate as well.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is a nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness-education organization. To find a local chapter, call 1-800-932-8677 or see:



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