Instead of dropping dough on unhealthy fast-food lunches or packing another lame PB&J yet again, Jaime Parker, a health coach with the Wellness Council of Arizona, gives tips on how to create delicious, nutritious and wallet-friendly lunches that even the kiddos can enjoy.
Plan ahead for the week. Turn your Sunday into a lunch-planning day for the week, rather than be in a scramble every morning wondering what to pack for the day. Use divided bento-style lunch containers to pre-package lunches for the week, making them go from the fridge to a lunch bag in a snap. Prepare bulk foods to add variety, such as rice, quinoa, grilled chicken and beans.
Involve your kids. Invite your children to help shop for groceries and teach them the importance of healthy eating. If you take your children with you when you shop, encourage them to choose produce of a certain color – it’s a great lesson in color identification, too. When it’s time to pack lunches for the week, bring out healthy fruits and veggies, and get your kids to be part of the assembly, choosing healthy foods that they’d like to eat. When you allow your children to participate in the food preparation process, making it fun and encouraging them along the way, the finished product is something they’re proud of and more willing to eat.
Ditch the PB&J. Variety is key. Go beyond a typical PB&J sandwich by creating a healthy lunchable with nitrate-free lunchmeat, cheese, yogurt, veggies, crackers and mustard. Assemble a smorgasbord of lighter snacks, including hard-boiled eggs, dried fruit and air-popped corn. Change up your sandwich by wrapping it with a whole-wheat tortilla, mini corn tortillas (kid-size!), lettuce or even collard greens.
Choose healthy. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make healthy foods fun. An easy, inexpensive, super healthy idea is to use hummus as your protein source. Put some in a gluten-free tortilla and add prewashed veggies and avocado.
Make veggies go undercover. Veggies often come back home as the lone occupants of a child’s lunchbox. Put these vitamin-packed powerhouses back in demand by asking kids to choose from two or three options. Jam-pack veggies into sauces that can be used for pizza or pasta. Put excitement back into vegetables by using cute cutters and stringing carrots, peppers and cucumbers onto a skewer. It’s amazing when they find out some of their favorite meals have veggie ingredients they don’t see.
Stretch your budget. Did you know that just by packing your lunch, you’ll save anywhere from $1,500 to $2,400 year? Healthy, fun lunches don’t need to cost a fortune. Shop the weekly ad, use your Thank You Card and Bashas’ Personal Thank You program, which customizes special deals for you based on what you purchase regularly. Buy bulk when you can for healthy and delicious items, including rice, nuts and dried fruit. Get creative with old standbys such as tuna, which can be doctored up with celery, relish, crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and more. Take advantage of eggs – from packing a hard-boiled snack to an omelet, eggs are versatile, travel well and are very healthy.