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How can I pack my kid a lunch he'll pick over pizza?

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The question

My kid is starting high school, and I'm worried he'll go to the pizza restaurant every day with the 'cool kids.' Any tips for packing a lunch he'll pick over pizza?

The answer

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The first place to start is to get your son involved in planning his own lunch.

Ask him what foods he would like to eat for lunch and which ones he doesn't care for. You might be surprised to learn your son likes a wide range of healthy foods and lunches you wouldn't have thought of! Also, if your son participates in making his own lunch he'll be more likely to eat it.

While some kids take comfort in eating the same lunch day after day, others need variety to stay interested. Instead of a whole sandwich, pack half a sandwich along with crackers and low fat cheese. Think beyond sliced bread. Try mini whole-wheat pita pockets, mini bagels, whole grain crackers, whole-wheat tortillas, or even leftover pasta or quinoa salad with chicken.

When cold weather hits, substitute the sandwich for a thermos filled with hearty chicken noodle soup, miso soup with tofu, leftover pasta, or turkey chili. Even a slice or two of leftover pizza can count as lunch.

Vary the protein too. Try lean roast beef, sliced chicken, tuna salad, hard boiled eggs, part skim milk cheese, tofu cubes, or a mixed bean salad. When serving tuna, egg or chicken salad use low fat mayonnaise and mix in shredded carrot, zucchini or apple.

Pack cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli florets, red pepper strips or cucumber coins. Send along a small container of hummus or low fat salad dressing for dipping. Instead of the usual apple or banana, try sliced fruit (add a little lemon juice to prevent browning), grapes, berries, raisins or individual unsweetened fruit cups.

I realize these tips won't guarantee your son never goes to the pizza restaurant for lunch. But by getting him involved in what he eats for lunch and keeping school lunches interesting and varied will certainly increase the odds he will eat his packed lunch.

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Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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