How can I make healthy sandwiches that my kids will actually want to eat?

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How can I make healthy sandwiches that my kids will actually want to eat?

Child eating sandwichKids get tired of the same old boring sandwiches (and parents grow tired of finding uneaten sandwiches in the lunchbox!). Try these fun ideas and tips for changing up your kids’ lunches and explore other ways to make packed lunches new and exciting!

  • Spice up that PB&J. Instead of the typical PB&J, try trading out the jelly for sliced apples, pears or bananas. This is a great way to include fruit into the meal while also cutting down on the sugar.
  • Cookie cutters—not just for making cookies. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for sandwiches. Kids pay attention to packaging and are more willing to eat things that are also appealing.
  • Put a sticker on it! A recent study showed that kids will choose fruit over cookies when it has a sticker of a cartoon character on it. Again, kids notice packaging, so use this to your advantage and put a sticker of their favorite character on a bag of carrots or other healthy food.
  • Think outside of the breadbox. Instead of your typical sandwich bread, try using other forms of whole grains for your kids' lunches, such as:
    • Stuff whole-wheat pitas with deli sliced turkey breast, lettuce and cheese.
    • Make personal mini pizzas using whole-grain English muffins.
    • Mix whole-grain pasta salad with steamed veggies and chicken—a great way to use leftovers from the night before.
    • Serve hummus with whole-grain crackers alongside carrots, celery and cucumbers.
  • More than mayo. Instead of mayo and mustard, try mixing it up with new spreads on your child’s sandwich. This easy-to-make hummus recipe can be flavored with any of your favorite spices:

Basic Hummus Recipe
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 tablespoons of water
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Add your favorite dried/ground spices to the mixture or add in a few tablespoons of pre-packaged powdered salad dressing (such as Ranch or French onion).

Mary Saph TanakaMary Saph Tanaka Contributor

Mary Saph Tanaka, MD, MS, developed her love for cooking at a young age, with fond memories of planting and cooking vegetables from the garden with her mother. She regularly utilizes locally grown ingredients and her knowledge of nutrition and herbs to prepare nutritious meals for family and friends. She is completing her pediatrics training at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital as part of the Community Health and Advocacy Training program. She developed the recipes for the recently released book “’Eat Your Vegetables’ and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters” written by Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD (Healthy Learning, 2012).

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