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Snazzy Lunch Box Ideas: Say Goodbye to Ho-Hum Lunches with These Gourmet Treats
©Stephanie Gallagher

They want something more exciting than bologna and cheese. You want them to have something more nutritious than a Pop-Tart.

Is there any way to spice up the kids lunches that doesn't require an hour of advance preparation? You bet!

Try tempting them with these kid-friendly, healthy gourmet foods. They'll have even your pickiest eaters looking forward to lunch:

* Gourmet Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter & Co. (www.ilovepeanutbutter.com ) makes a line of gourmet peanut butters that are sure to tantalize the kids' taste buds.

Try Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter with shredded apples on whole wheat (it tastes just like apple pie). Or spread the Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter on good-quality white bread or french bread and top with sliced strawberries. Both sandwiches are excellent grilled, too.

And peanut butter is an excellent source of vegetable protein, fiber (2 tablespoons contain as much fiber as a half cup of broccoli), magnesium, Vitamin E, niacin and folic acid. It's also cholesterol-free.

Just make sure you read the label to see if your peanut butter contains any partially hydrogenated oils. You don't want those - they're the worst kind of fat for you.

* Gourmet Almond Butter

Trend (www.trendalmondspread.com ) makes a similar line of gourmet almond spreads.

With flavors like Milk Chocolate Cherry, Butterscotch and White Chocolate Cantaloupe Almond, you're sure to find an almond spread the kids will like. And almond butter is high in fiber, protein, calcium and certain minerals.

* Flavored Water

Kids love juice boxes, but even 100% juice is high in calories and sugar. Milk or water are the best choices. But when kids are craving something sweeter, try tempting them with HINT Water (www.drinkhint.com ). Bottled water flavored with just a hint of natural sugar, HINT water comes in flavors like apple, raspberry lime, cucumber and pomegranate-tangerine.

* Crispy Fruit Snacks

Sensible Foods Fruit and Vegetables Snacks (www.sensiblefoods.com ) makes a line of all-natural dried fruit snacks that are far healthier than your average potato chip. And thanks to a special freeze-drying process, they're crunchy, too.

They come in flavors like Cherry Berry (a mix of cherries, apples, blueberries and strawberries), Tropical Blend (apples, pineapples, mangos, and bananas) and Organic Supersweet Corn (sweet corn).

* Healthy Brownies and Muffins

Is it possible to eat a chocolate brownie for lunch that's not only nutritious, but low calorie, too? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

The brownie in question is called a VitaBrownie, made by Vitalicious (www.vitalicious.com ), and to be fair, it isn't huge. But it packs a walloping 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 50% of the U.S. RDA of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamins B6 and B12 and 60% of the RDA of Iron.

Plus, it actually tastes good. Not oh-so-rich, gooey,fudgy brownie good. But way-better-than-your-average-diet-product good. And remember, most diet brownies and desserts don't have much nutritional value.

Vitalicious also makes VitaMuffins and VitaMuffin tops in flavors like chocolate AppleBerryBran, Blueberry Bran, Cranberry Bran and Deep Chocolate.

Author Bio:
Stephanie Gallagher, a.k.a., The Shopping Mom, is the author of four books, Editor of The Shopping Mom's Favorite Things (http://www.the-shopping-mom.com ) and Healthy Cooking Columnist for Suite 101 (http://healthycooking.suite101.com ).

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