Top Back-to-School Food Trends

Here are a few simple tricks to present fresh and healthy foods in a fun and eco-friendly way.

Make It Fresh

The average cost of a school lunch is only a little over $2 per student, but you get what you pay for. Excellent nutrition is just as important in the teen years as it is for your growing kindergartener, and making lunch at home is the best way to ensure that you control the calories, fats, salt, sugar and preservatives your student is consuming. Sending a fresh and healthy homemade lunch to school in a reusable or recyclable container benefits everyone and can be a lot of fun.

Keep It Healthy

Packing a school lunch is no different from planning any other meal. You'll need fruits and vegetables, a lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Peanut butter and jelly is a tried-and-true staple of bag lunches, but many schools ban peanut butter because some students may have serious food allergies. Some schools prohibit all nut butters, while others forbid only peanut butter. If your little scholar doesn't want to give up her PB&J, try using your Vitamix blender to create delicious, homemade almond or cashew butter instead. Serve them with a low-sugar jam on whole grain bread.

Instead of chips, offer carrot and celery sticks with homemade dips, homemade chia bars, or pack a frozen smoothie. By the time the lunch bell rings, your frozen concoction will have thawed into a thick and creamy treat that's as nutritious as it is delicious.

Have Some Fun

Presentation is everything when serving food so don't be afraid to get creative. Traditional Japanese bento boxes can be as simple as a compartmentalized lunch box, or as elaborate as an edible work of art.

Choose your ingredients with an eye toward balancing flavors, colors, textures and proportions. A fresh fruit salad of blackberries, halved green grapes and pineapple chunks is far more appetizing than the usual commercial salad of peaches, apples and pears.

Cut sandwiches into shapes with cookie cutters or a paring knife. Put a twist on the traditional peanut butter sandwich by using raisins and bananas to make a funny face for your child to enjoy.

Finish packing their lunch with a personal note wishing them luck on a test or just to brighten their school day.

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