There's a lot of wheeling and dealing that goes on in the school cafeteria. Ham and cheese sandwiches are being traded for pretzels, and chocolate puddings are swapped for Doritos.
When it comes to lunch hour, food is currency. The kid with all the power is the one whose mom packed a Twix bar in their lunch bag. And if all you have is a sandwich made with 9-grain homemade bread, then you're at the bottom of the totem pole.
Think about that next time you pack your kid's lunch. We're not recommending that you load them up with candy bars to crown them king of the cafeteria. There are healthy and delicious items you can prepare to make their lunch the envy of the lunchroom. Check them out below.
Swap In Mac And Cheese (And Vegetables)
In the list of top 10 foods that kids enjoy, macaroni and cheese is high up there. Problem is, it's not that good for them -- especially if made right from a box. But if you make this dish from scratch you can sneak in vegetables like cauliflower and they won't know the difference. All the kids will be wanting some of this lunch. If the school doesn't offer a way to reheat food, heat the mac and cheese in the morning and pack it in a thermos. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/recipe-search/?query=mac+n+cheese" target="_hplink">Cauliflower Mac & Cheese recipe</a> </strong>
Swap The Chips For Baked Wedges
It's true that the majority of kids like chips, but they get them all the time. Step it up a notch with crispy potato baked wedges. They're almost like french fries but so much healthier. And the truth is, they taste better too. To serve these warm, heat them in the morning and pack them in a thermos. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/oven-roasted-potato-wedge_n_1060904.html" target="_hplink">Oven-Roasted Potato Wedges recipe</a></strong>
Swap The Fruit Cup For Fresh Fruit
While fruit cups are convenient, not only are they not very appetizing they're also just not fresh. Take a couple of minutes in the morning and cut fresh fruit. Watermelon and strawberries will be a hit.
Let Them Play With Their Food
Lunchables are so popular with kids because it lets them play with their food and have a part in making their own lunch. You don't have to resort to the overly processed cheese and nutritious crackers of the pre-made lunches. Make your own "Lunchable" with better ingredients.
Swap Fruit Chews For Fruit Bars
Okay, so fruit bars are not <em>that</em> healthy. They might not healthier than fruit chews, but they are tastier. And everyone needs a little treat in their lunch. If you make fruit bars homemade --with real fruit -- at least you know they're getting a serving of an important food group. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/stone-fruit-bars_n_1062270.html" target="_hplink">Stone-Fruit Bars recipe</a></strong>
Swap Sodas For Fruit Cocktails
Skip the coke or the juice box, all the kids or gulping down these overly sweet drinks. Instead make a drink out of juice and club soda. It'll go down just like a soda for kids, but has half the amount of suger and you can make fun and interesting flavors.
Swap The Sandwich For Spaghetti
Why give your child a sandwich that will just get soggy when you can give them spaghetti with meatballs (another on the top 10 list of children's favorites)? And if you want to keep it healthy, use turkey meatballs. To serve this warm, heat it in the morning and pack them in a thermos. <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chicken-or-turkey-meatbal_n_1057017.html" target="_hplink">Chicken or Turkey Meatballs recipe</a></strong>
Add Sauce To Carrot Sticks
It's not easy getting kids to eat their fill of veggies. And hoping they'll eat the carrot sticks and broccoli florets you pack in their lunch is really just wishful thinking. A great way to get them to chow down on veggies is to add a dipping sauce. And you don't have to turn to bottled ranch, you can make your own healthy and tasty alternatives. <strong>Get the <a href="http://bakedbree.com/yogurt-herb-dipping-sauce" target="_hplink">Herb Yogurt Dipping Sauce recipe</a> by Baked Bree</strong>
WATCH: How To Pack Healthy School Lunches