For a school lunch to be considered good, it has to fulfill two requirements: It should be nutritional, and it should be something kids will want to eat. Combining the two requirements can be tricky, particularly if you're dealing with a picky eater---a description that fits most kids. However, with a little planning---and a little input from the kids---you can easily create some great lunches. The goal is to send your child to school with a lunch every other kid would love to trade for (and then hope no trading occurs).
Find information on the USDA food pyramid (see Resources below). On a sheet of paper, make columns for each category: protein, fruits and vegetables, grains and so on.
Sit down with your child and list every possible food, under the correct category, she would want to eat (see Step One). Be prepared with a comprehensive list. For example, have on hand a list of every possible fruit and vegetable, every source of protein (chicken, deli turkey, tuna, different types of nuts), every possible dairy product (cheeses and yogurt, for example) and a variety of breads (whole wheat, raisin, rye and many others).
Make a list of "unnecessary but fun" foods; this would include such items as candy and snack foods. Include sizes in the list; for example: a 1-oz. snack bag of potato chips or three gummy worms. Explain that one serving of a fun food can be included in each lunch. You can pack more nutrition into your child's lunch by putting foods such as oatmeal raisin cookies (made from whole wheat flour and other healthy ingredients) on the "fun" list.
Play a game of mix and match. Have kids choose something from each column to make up a possible lunch: for example, a small container of tuna, pita bread wedges, orange slices and a piece of string cheese. Another example: almonds, cantaloupe cubes and some whole wheat "cracker sandwiches" spread with cream cheese. Most kids would prefer an assortment of easy-to-eat food rather than one big sandwich and one large piece of fruit.
Vary the lunches you prepare. However, if a child is happy eating the same thing day after day, it's better than sending something that won't be eaten.
Invest in some non-crushable containers to ensure that your child's food will look appetizing when it's lunchtime.
Write your child's name on these with permanent markers.