Whether it’s tucked into the latest trendy tote or a humble brown bag, lunch is often a high point in a child’s day—and the time-honored favorite is still the all-American sandwich.  But it’s a challenging balancing act for parents who pack lunches: Kids have to love them, and they should also deliver good nutrition. To be a classroom champion, children need to power up with nutrient-rich foods.

Bread Basics. “Great taste is the key to getting kids to make more nutritious choices at lunchtime,” says Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition for Washington University in St. Louis. “Making a nutritious sandwich the kids will enjoy starts with choosing the right bread.” She recommends 100% whole-grain bread that delivers the nutrition kids need, but with a soft texture and smooth taste they’ll like.

Read Labels Carefully. Many wheat breads on the market are not made with whole wheat, but with enriched wheat flour, which has a nutritional profile similar to white bread. 

More Fruits and Veggies. Kids (and adults) do not, however, live by bread alone. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, more matters. Nutrition experts like Diekman encourage everyone to eat more fresh produce. Research studies reveal better attention spans and classroom discipline among kids who eat more fruits and vegetables.

A Rainbow of Colors. “A simple way for kids and adults to eat a healthy diet is to have a rainbow of color on your plate every day,” Diekman says. When packing lunch for kids, provide them with healthy choices they already love, such as strawberries. A kid-favorite fruit, they provide sustained energy levels, are naturally sweet and have very few calories.

“Strawberries are a great way to ‘eat your red.’ Plus, a daily serving of 8 medium strawberries provides 160% of your day’s supply of vitamin C—more than an orange,” Diekman says. “It’s an easy and tasty way to help ward off colds, the flu and help keep your child’s immune system strong.”

Rockin’ Recipe. See Friday’s recipe for a yummy Peanut Butter and Strawberry Sandwich With Honey.

Photo courtesy of the California Strawberry Commission/Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread