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What's in your child's lunchbox?

August is flying by and school will start soon. Trying to get some lunch box ideas for my elementary-aged son. What's popular with your kids?

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  1. I roast a batch of teriyaki chicken legs at the beginning of the week and put one or two of those in their lunches with some fruit. This ABSOLUTELY requires a cold pack of some kind, I like to use a frozen water bottle or those water pouches (like Capri Sun pouches but water!)
    Hot dogs cut into octopus, cucumber slices, little dips (my kid love the horrid Kraft Green Goddess so I indulge them of course)
    Cheese sandwiches with interesting combinations of cheese.
    Hard boiled eggs. (dyed if possible)
    Leftover pizza (or if you made pizza the night before make a couple extra minis for lunch.)
    Roasted veggies processed with some low-fat cream cheese spread on interesting breads, bagels, or with crackers.
    If there's an Asian thrift store in your area I highly recommend getting some lunch containers and packing stuff that will make it easy and give some inspirations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: iheartcooking

      I want your packed lunches too! They sound yummy & cute! Your kids don't mind eating the chicken cold?

      1. re: lausyreno

        No, but I always run stuff like that by them before I pack them.

    2. i swear i was getting ready to start a thread on this! ha!
      i make homemade granola and send it with the girls with a cup of yogurt.
      also, they LOVE getting salads, always dressing on the side.
      my oldest loves getting cold orzo with basil, feta, cherry tomatoes and vinaigrette.
      i would love some other ideas as well!!!

      1. I don't have a big sandwich lover on my hands, so we do lots of pastas and rice in the thermos. Pasta w/pesto, butter, red sauce, chunks of mozz., leftover macaroni and cheese. Rice with butter (I know, I know), sesame oil and soy sauce, cubed tofu. I often send leftover roast chicken for protein - she'll eat it cold. Cold pizza sometimes goes, too. If she is up for a sandwich, it's usually PB&J or cream cheese on whole wheat. Tried to get her to try my fav lunchtime sammie as a kid, cream cheese & olive, but it's a no-go.

        She is not a veggie lover (but for carrots), so fruit's the name of the game - strawberries, grapes, apples - all ready to eat in stainless containers. She either drinks water or buys milk at school.

        Once in a while she buys the G-d-awful school lunch, but she much prefers homemade, even if we're not very fancy. She loves repetition - beyond me!


        17 Replies
        1. re: gansu girl

          True confession: when I was about 8, my mother told us we would now have to make our own school lunches, so I started making my own. I would pack myself the same lunch everyday for YEARS at a time, and never got tired of it. Strange, I know...

            1. re: alliebear

              It changed every 3 or 4 years. In elementary school a peanut butter and jam sandwich with an apple, and a "treat" (granola bar or cookies), that I always ate at morning recess.
              Grades 7-10 a buttered bagel, drink box (Minute Maid orange punch, which I froze overnight so it was still cold at lunch), apple, sliced cheddar chese, and cookies.. if there were any in the house. It's been over 20 years, but I can still remember!
              I cannot believe that I ate the same thing every week-day lunch for years!

              1. re: rstuart

                When I was a kid I packed a pack of Buddig's turkey, a fruit roll-up and a bag of Doritos. Ugh.

                1. re: sweetpotater

                  When I was a kid a slapped a piece of bologna between two pieces of bread, threw in an apple and threw the whole thing out when my locker started to stink. I never ate lunch and my Mom never knew. Me very bad.

                2. re: rstuart

                  My mom always made me ham sandwiches on white bread with butter (the square ham out of the package). To this day, ham is so not my favorite.

            2. re: gansu girl

              my m-i-l just introduced me to olive and cream cheese sandwiches, and all i can say is: where have these been all my life?!?!

              1. re: westernmeadowlark

                What kind of olives go on this sandwich? I'm not a big sandwich eater but this sounds like something I could get into.

                1. re: chickennosenshi

                  We always went for (I haven't had this in years, but I think I'm going to have to make one today!) green olives, so salty & flavorful. I'm sure some must like it w/canned black olives, but I find those to be so bland . . . nice to have the salty bite w/the creamy cheese, I think!


                  1. re: gansu girl

                    I made an olive sandwich for myself and loved it! It is my new favorite. My 4 year old daughter also enjoyed it, although honestly she is just happy with straight green olives and some fruit. She can't get enough green olives.

                    1. re: chickennosenshi

                      My daughter is obsessed with olives too, although her very favorites are kalamata. I like to send her off with tapenade and havarti sandwiches. I like the cream cheese idea.

                  2. re: chickennosenshi

                    My folks used to make it with cream cheese, ripe olives, and chopped pecans, on whole wheat. A similar sandwich from the same (long-ago) era was "egg & olive" which is chopped hard-cooked eggs, mayonnaise, and a lot of pimiento-stuffed olives, also on whole wheat. Both were standard fare in the 1940's.

                    1. re: westernmeadowlark

                      My grandmother made me those!! It was our special lunch that only the two of us liked to eat. Super thin white bread, toasted, with cream cheese and pimento stuffed green olives. Cream cheese and jam for the wimps who didn't like olives.
                      Man, I miss grandma...

                      1. re: westernmeadowlark

                        If you like olive & cream cheese, you should try pickles, salami & cream cheese. Sounds gross, but it really is good.

                      2. re: gansu girl

                        gansu girl, I think packing a thermos of rice and butter, coupled with some fruit or vegetable and a drink trumps what MOST schools serve for lunch now-a-days!

                        1. re: cgarner

                          My grandma used to mix rice, butter and salt and roll them into little balls for us. Yum!

                      3. My 7 year old loves sushi, so we send her with sushi rice, nori package (small square size) and a filling (usually cucumber, avocado or somethig similar). She makes her own "sushi" at school.

                        She also loves a slice of salmon pie (she'll eat it at room temp) and a new fav is zucchini / spaghetti pancake from a recent Cooking Light article.

                        I too love cream cheese and olive. She won't go for that. I have done bread sushi which is wheat bread with the crust cut off, flattened with a rolling pin, filled with cream cheese and a stripe of jelly, rolled like sushi and cut like a maki roll. More work than a sandwich, but a fun treat.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cookg

                          I love this! - My son is asking for sushi for his lunches this year, so I am going to use your ideas. He'll love making his own!

                          1. re: Cachetes

                            Along these same lines, you can make onigiri, with tiny spoonfuls of leftover anything in the centers, and freeze them individually wrapped. They can be heated and packed the morning of (and for those of us with break rooms, packed cold and nuked.)
                            Read up on bento lunches because they are all about food safety and packing foods that naturally resist bacteria.

                          2. re: cookg

                            Great idea. I think my DS would like to "make" his own lunch too!

                          3. My son loves salami, so I'll take a small piece and wrap it around a baby carrot, which he enjoys. He loves grape tomatoes as well, and hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper sprinkled on them, or maybe with a little dijon dip. Leftovers are a big hit also - he likes the variety. He's pretty good with veggies, too, so we send him with cold cooked broccoli or spinach.

                            A lot of his classmates bring bagels, and one little boy (Russian) brings stuffed crepes, which I'm going to try.

                            1. My daughther will eat anything so other than the standard sandwiches...

                              Hummus, either on a sandwich with thinly sliced cucumber or in a mini container with crackers and/or baby carrots on the side.

                              Pinwheel sandwiches with either turkey or ham. Or cream cheese and jelly.

                              Soup in a thermos, or leftover pasta or mac and cheese.

                              Cucumber, carrots, peppers sliced with ranch dressing for dipping (not as the "main course" but on the side of something else).

                              1. Lots of good ideas here for me to try. Ever popular at my house are veggie fried rice - easy to whip up in the morning if no leftovers are available - and black bean burritos made with rice, beans, cheese, salsa, maybe leftover roasted veggies. Both of my kids love salsa so a big container of that plus some tortilla chips is popular.

                                And once the weather is cooler, chili or veggie soup in a thermos.

                                1. No one in our house has allergies but various classrooms in the school are nut free... so my kids don't bring nut products to school.

                                  Our regular rotation includes:

                                  Spaghetti or rotini & meatballs
                                  Tortellini with peas and pesto
                                  Chicken pot pie in a jar - the usual filling topped with mashed potatoes instead of crust
                                  Various soups - pureed soups seem to have a higher take rate since they're faster to eat.

                                  Egg salad with bacon
                                  BLTs (with the tomato packed separately)
                                  Venison pastrami
                                  Bison smoked meat wraps
                                  Cream cheese and jam (for the pickier eater)
                                  Veggie ham, cheese & mayo (another picky eater fave)


                                  BLT pasta salad: cherry tomatoes, chopped romaine and bacon tossed with small pasta (usually penne) and a simple vinaigrette
                                  Oldest daughter likes greek salad, the other two like feta but separately.

                                  Homemade granola bars (I posted a link to a no bake recipe here somewhere)
                                  Morning Glory Muffin Bars
                                  Blueberry muffins
                                  Chocolate swirl banana bread
                                  Plain greek yogurt layered with frozen blueberries (thaws by snack time), strawberry conserve, or honey
                                  Veggies and hummus/tzatziki
                                  Cheddar cubes and grapes

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: maplesugar

                                    Your comment about the nut free classrooms caught my eye because I have one child who is allergic and although our school is not nut free, our school nurse often sends letters to the kids in class requesting that in class snacks be nut free (if they have a morning snack for instance).

                                    Do you buy or make your pesto? Most store bought and most recipes call for nuts as an ingredient, generally pine nuts, but sometimes walnut or hazlenut. Since you have such good intentions, I'm just curious.

                                    1. re: sasha1

                                      I buy Classico Basil Pesto. Last time I checked it was (surprisingly) nut free.

                                      eta: just double checked the jar in the fridge: basil, soybean oil, garlic, romano cheese, olive oil, oregano, salt, lactic acid, torula yeast, citric acid.

                                      I am a voracious label reader. I have friends who are celiac, some who can't do nightshades, others who can't do citrus (wouldn't serve the later this pesto) As far as I'm concerned it's no inconvenience to me to make sure what I send to school or serve to guests is safe for them to eat/be around. I also spent a good part of my younger days as a Lifeguard and CPR instructor--I know what anaphylaxis does to a person.

                                      1. re: maplesugar

                                        Thanks for being patient with me! I really was curious because lots of parents mean well but don't know. I can't tell you how many times we've asked, for ex, soccer families on my son's team to avoid bringing snacks for the team with nuts. And still, we get tons of granola and other protein type bars which invariably contain some form of nuts in them (or labels warning of cross contamination).

                                        1. re: sasha1

                                          Most schools where we live are nut free. I totally forgot and thought I was giving my son a treat with a PBJ sandwich one day and after school, he gave me scolded me for sending him to school with nuts. Oops!

                                  2. Being an adventurous eater and a real hound, my son long ago eschewed his school lunches. I have sent him to school with everything from caviar and little buckwheat blinis, to pate de foie gras, which is a particular favorite. A nice slice of pate de foie gras, some cornichons and a quarter of a baguette make a delectable lunch. One of my son's favorite lunches from last year was a spicy Sicilian pecorino and sliced sopressata with some crackers. He claimed that he could eat that every day of the week. But don't get me wrong -- he loves sandwiches too, and one of his favorites is sliced fried free-range chicken breast on a baguette with avocado, frisee, and a hint of sriracha, just to keep it interesting. Too bad school hasn't started since my husband is in the kitchen frying up some chicken right this minute!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      Damn, that kid eats better than I do.

                                    2. This thread is so timely! My son is moving to a different daycare that does not provide lunch, so I need to come up with interesting lunch ideas. And I have absolutely no time (work more than full time and am starting night school). He eats everything, so these ideas are great! Keep 'em coming! :-)

                                      1. I put leftover pizza in a Warm And Tote wrapped in parchment paper and my very picky eater really likes this when the school is serving pretend pizza on Friday. He is a simple little man so i also give him a sandwich, a yogurt that has been frozen so it is nice at lunchtime a fruit and a mini Hershey. We all need moderation.
                                        My cheat for my daughter who will eat anything and hates sandwhiches is that some days, when the leftovers are scarce, I heat up a Lean Cusine and put half in a Thermos. Also very popular are th frozen dumplings - we have a brand called Nature's Promise from stop and shop. She likes lots of variety so a little salad, a few chips, some salsa, carrots with dip, etc, etc.

                                        If i make tuna or salmon salad for my son, it's in a container and have taught him to make his own sandwich. Hate squishy tuna.

                                        1. Great topic. My son is not an adventurous eater. What I try to do is a lot of little things, so that he's bound to eat something and can easily have a snack after school. I want to get him a thermos because he does like soup. I'd love to hear what brand you like and how you use it -- if you heat the soup/chili up to near boiling, how long will it stay hot for? Also, any tips on how to keep cut-up cheese tasting (and looking) fresh? It can get kind of dried out after a few hours. Last year, we made a poster about the different components of a healthy meal (protein, fruit/veg, carb) with examples of each one and he would pack his own lunches. Hard in the morning rush, but good for so many reasons.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jessinEC

                                            I don't know about everyone else but I use well, a Thermos brand thermos. Look for metal insulated containers... with durable, easy to clean (usually plastic or rubber) screw on lids. I don't find the all plastic ones hold heat well and they're usually bulkier. Pour scalding hot water into the thermos while you heat whatever is going in it - and yes heat whatever the food is higher than you would for immediate consumption - empty, fill with food and screw it closed.

                                            About cheese storage: What type of cheese are you packing and what is it currently packed in? I usually send cheddar cubes in a small tupperware container or ziploc snack bag and never had it dry out.

                                            1. re: maplesugar

                                              We use thermos brand too. They have cute kid containers ... maybe also under the brand FOOGO. I don't warm the container but ensure soups are super hot when I put them in. Sometimes my son comes home and says the soups was too hot to drink.

                                          2. Well, I think the basics AND some great ideas are to be found here already, so I'll just toss in my .02 about the whole point of school lunch, which is dessert. :)
                                            My kids have always adored creme brulee, which is easy to "slide" from the ceramic indies they're baked in to something transportable for school. (Naturally an icepack is a complete must for this one.) I'd just brulee it, let them cool, cover them w/ plastic wrap, and then the lid. Of course it wasn't the experience of a freshly done crackly brulee, but it was tasty, and I never did tell them their desserts were loaded with healthy things like eggs and milk. They did figure that out on their own eventually, but by that time they were cool with healthy.
                                            Oh, and on ice cream day at school, once or twice I sent them with leftover chocolate sauce to add, and one time I had leftover poached cherries and sent them with little containers of that to add, and not having thunk it out too clearly was very suprised to get a phone call from the principal asking if there was kirsch in there, which answer was, "oops." I'll be right there to pick the little drunkards up.

                                            1. Another note for a thermos. The ones with the wide tops make it easier to eat from. I heat up food for the thermos at around 8:00 and by lunch time (12ish?), the food is still warm.


                                              Also, my son is much pickier than my daughter so it's a little more challenging. Some days I will put my homemade chicken fingers in his lunch or even fish sticks. I don't even warm them up, just take them out of the refrigerator in the morning and by lunch time they are room temperature. I put a little tupperware with ketchup for dipping and he is happy.

                                              1. Wow, many of you are really lucky to have such open-minded/adventurous eaters. My daughter is a good eater at home, but much more uptight about what she'll eat at school. This is really limiting. Plus, there's a strict no-nuts rule at her school. So the only things she'll eat for lunch are a bagel w/cream cheese, or a soynut butter & jam sandwich. Fruit, cucumbers or carrots, and cookies round things out.

                                                I would give my right arm if, for lunch, she would eat leftover pasta, hardboiled eggs, sushi, or many of the other things you guys have mentioned here. She'll happily eat everything at home, but I think she's very self-conscious about being in sync with what her peers eat. Hope she grows out of this soon.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: AverageJo

                                                  I sympathize! My older son eats much better at home than school, and is also influenced by peers. He ate eggs for awhile until someone told him they smelled, and now he won't. He is also all about warm food needing to be warm and so won't eat cold chicken, cold pizza, cold pasta. I can only keep things lukewarm in his thermos. He won't eat bagels bc frozen, toasted, and sitting around for a couple of hours don't taste like baked and bought on Saturday morning.

                                                  I've managed to find a few things for him, but it can get really frustrating when he arbitrarily says he doesn't like something that he has been tolerating, and doesn't replace it w/a new like. In a month, I'll have to pack lunches for 2 boys, which I am NOT looking forward to!

                                                2. This is such a great thread. Will be referring back to it once we get into the swing of things. So far it has mostly just been sandwiches, chopped vegetables (she loves raw carrots and red and green peppers, especially) and maybe some pretzel goldfish, but I do want to branch out. Until this summer she'd eaten all her lunches at home, and was used to having leftovers from whatever we'd eaten the night before, so I think having room temp food is going to be an odd change for her. I did send Trader Joes mini-tacos wrapped in aluminum foil a couple of times, and those were a big hit. She eats plenty of fruit at breakfast (it is pretty much all she eats then), and at snack time at school, so I don't worry much about getting that in there.

                                                  1. one of my friend's kids is in a "deconstructed to reconstruct" phase - burritos (mom sends tortillas, beans precooked with cheese, rice, salsa, sometimes chicken and avocado), stuffed pockets (pitas, cucumber, hummus tomatoes dressing etc), tea time fare (a few different types of breads cut into petit four size squares, a few different sandwich fillings and spreads), parfaits (yogurt, fruit, pumpkin seeds, etc)...

                                                    another one of my friend's kid is currently obsessed with breakfast for lunch -- loves taking pancakes or waffles (cold or still warm in foil) with maples syrup (premixed with a little butter) and turkey bacon; or a breakfast burrito; or cold cereal or oatmeal... my friend tries to supplement whatever choice for lunch with needed protein or fruit on the side or later...

                                                    1. My new lunch challenge is to make something interesting that can be eaten on the fly in between classes. My son is a HS sophomore with a challenging schedule this year -- classes straight from 8:30 to 1:30 with no break. So all those lovely things that could be eaten at a table in the cafeteria, have to be replaced by sandwiches that can be eaten on the way from one class to the other. So now, what I am mostly searching for are fabulous, sophisticated sandwiches for my fabulous, sophisticated son. A further challenge is that he is a nationally ranked athlete and will go right to his training at 1:30, and he needs to have enough fuel to get him through this part of his day as well.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                        you could try sending stuff in bite-and-go portions... a bunch of each...
                                                        meatloaf squares that he can munch through a couple between classes.
                                                        chicken or beef quesadillas.
                                                        miniature empanadas (a couple of bites each).
                                                        leftover egg rolls and dumplings
                                                        waffle, ham and egg sandwiches
                                                        hummus, roasted chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes stuffed in mini pitas
                                                        polenta squares
                                                        ...sorry roxlet, i know you said sammies, but i thought these might work too :) best of luck to him in his sophomore year, and in his athletic career!

                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                          We're not big on sandwiches at my house but two ideas that my kids love - pesto slathered on bread with salami, roasted veggies and/or cheese. Fairly easy to eat, flavorful, great at room temp. Also, liverwurst on rye with thinly sliced onions. After years of trying, I've finally gotten my kids to enjoy this. They also like that it grosses out many of their friends.

                                                          Other easy to eat, high protein foods that we use for after school/before sports snacks - hard boiled eggs (peeled, put in a baggie with some loose salt and pepper. Cheese cubes and crackers. Celery and peanut butter "sandwiches" - cut celery in half, add PB, close back up.

                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                            Wow... he's only 15, and has classes straight from 8:30 to 1:30?? Is that because of his athletics, or just the way the school is scheduled? That's expecting a lot of a 10th grader. I went to high school with lots of dancers from a professional dance school (one of the biggest in Canada). They danced all morning and had school all afternoon, so had permission from the teachers to eat in class if need be (although I don't recall the girls ever eating)...

                                                            1. re: rstuart

                                                              It's partially because of the athletics. He has a varsity schedule -- that is, when you play two varsity sports a year (squash -winter, crew- spring), they try to schedule free periods at the end of the day so that you don't miss classes when the teams have to leave early for matches at more distant schools. Although it may be tough, he will have lots of time after training to get all of his work done, which means fewer late nights and better sleep habits. There are some squash players he knows who do attend professional children's school, and it seems as if my son's schedule is pretty much in the same ballpark, so we're all very happy about it, and his friends are all jealous. Of course, the only trying part will be staying fueled throughout the day.

                                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                                That's good. Schools in the States seem to start very early in the morning, and I've heard of some that are fairly crowded had "lunch period" at 10:30 for some kids. Definitely set up for the convenience of adults and not teenagers!
                                                                Since teenage boys are perpetually hungry anyway, it must be hard to keep him full! I'm guessing lots of homemade granola bars/muffins too.. since they can be eaten on between classes? The Kitchn just had a story on "breakfast cookies"...

                                                                1. re: rstuart

                                                                  I'll have to check that out. Breakfast cookies sound like a great idea. We are fortunate to send him to a private school, so overcrowding is not a problem. Most of his classes have 12 kids or fewer.

                                                          2. According to a thing I just saw on TV, what SHOULD be in Johnny's lunchbox is an ice pack. Apparently many parents don't put one in, slather the sandwich in mayo, lunch sits on radiator all morning, Johnny eats a bunch of bacteria for lunch, and soon is in nurse's office being sick. The program said that over half of lunchboxes surveyed did not have an ice pack.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                              I'd love to know the specifics behind this. Does bacteria really get to lethal levels that fast, assuming the food was packed straight from the fridge 3 or 4 hours earlier?

                                                              FWIW, I've never used ice packs for school lunches. I do sometimes for summer sports camps when it is in the upper 90's.

                                                              1. re: tcamp

                                                                I saw on the Today show that even lunches packed with ice packs did not maintain a safe temp by lunchtime. They said the lunches should either be kept refrigerated or should contain only foods that are okay at room temp. I think they also said hot foods in Thermos were unsafe.

                                                                This has scared me into not sending lunch with my kids, even though they would like to... Eventually I will try to get in the groove safely.

                                                                  1. re: Becca Porter

                                                                    All I know is that when I was little, I brown-bagged it every day with no ice pack. Mon-Thurs was OM bologna & mustard and Friday was tuna fish. Never got sick. I do ice-pack my boys lunches (turkey & cheese, fruit, yogurt, chicken nuggets, milk, juice, cheese sticks, pizza) and feel comfortable with it.

                                                                    1. re: hto44

                                                                      i freeze the juice box but pretty much everything i send is shelf stable

                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                  I've gotta say, I'm skeptical. There are so many other factors that could play into this - how old was the lunch meat to start with? What percentage of lunch bags w/o ice packs cause illness? What's in those lunches? I never, ever had an ice pack growing up and I never, ever got sick off lunch. Cheese, bologna, salami, tuna salad w/mayo - all warm by lunch and nothin'. I do send an ice pack w/my daughter to CAMP, when it's in the 80's and 90's and she's in the sun, but otherwise, no ice pack to school.


                                                                  1. re: gansu girl

                                                                    Totally agree with you. I've been sending lunch for my daughter, now in 2nd grade, in an insulated bag since pre-school and she has never gotten sick. Turkey sandwiches, salami or bologna sandwiches, cream cheese, hummus, you name it. I don't send things with mayo, but it has nothing to do with getting sick, just a taste preference.

                                                                    I also send food sometimes in a thermos...she has been fine. I'm a little more cautious in the summer, but partially because the thought of a warm yogurt is disgusting to me.

                                                                    1. re: valerie

                                                                      I work in public health... and I don't always put my lunch in the fridge! I find that cheese, hummous, most yogourt etc is fine for a few hours. But I wouldn't eat a salad with mayo or meat (unprocessed; luncheon meats are full of preservatives) that had been sitting at room temperature for a few hours.

                                                                      1. re: rstuart

                                                                        There was much hysteria on my local news channel this morning about how desks are typically more germ laden than toilets.

                                                                        So who knows what's gonna get you first: Salad, desk, aggressive driver, scalding coffee, etc. Maybe a bloody mary for a mid morning snack to kill germs?

                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                          I am skeptical too. I have never used an ice pack. I don't think I have ever gotten sick from a lunch that was not refridgerated?!?!

                                                                2. I don't have children but I do pack my lunch every day. I'm a big fan of the bentos and I think that (naively, maybe) children might be induced to eat anything that's packed cute (kawai) enough. I am not immune to "pretty" packaging. My colleagues go out to lunch every day and spend nearly $10 on crud. And I know they are envious of my lunches!

                                                                  I usually have a protein--often leftover pork tenderloin or a roast chicken leg, etc. In fall and winter when I often cook soups and stews I'll take a thermos of that. The key is to have a stainless steel thermos and fill with boiling water for 10 minutes before putting heated soup in. But back to the protein--I've taken shrimp before, strips of steak. If I don't have much time, energy, or creativity, I will use meatballs or organic chicken nuggets. I have Aidell's teriyaki chicken meatballs (very yum!) and then I make a moroccan meatball and have them in the freezer. Meatballs are a fun size to eat. On the weekend I whip up a salad or two--a lentil salad with olive oil, red onion, lemon juice, a cumin carrots salad, corn and black bean salad with lime juice, red onion, cumin, cilantro, white bean salad with tomatoes, parsley, and balsamic vinaigrette, tabbouleh, carrot, peanut butter, and raisin salad, cucumber and tomato salad, roasted potatoes (sometimes the jeweled potatoes, sometimes made into a potato salad). Keep baby sweet peppers around, hummus, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, celery, purple radishes. Fruit varying by the season--grapes are always good, I like the small fruits (and I think children would too) like seckel pears, cuties, strawberries, etc. Different cheeses--string cheese, bocconcini, babybel cheese. I finish off my bento with a tiny piece or two of candy, preferably holiday. Nothing makes me happier than getting to my valentine's hearts or St. Patty's "gold" or easter jellybeans,etc. Oh, and of course refrigeration is important so I make the frozen ice-packs with me.

                                                                  My favorite bento blog that is a little overambitious but fun is happylittlebento.blogspot.com