Now that we’re deep into the school year, your family has probably settled into a comfortable routine. Although many lunch staples – like leftovers from last night’s dinner or a nut butter and jelly sandwich – are healthy and well-rounded, your kids may be growing bored with their midday meal. Trying a new spin on school lunch is a great idea not only because it keeps things interesting, but also because it’s a great way to find new healthy foods for your family to enjoy. Read on for some of our favorite tips!
Affordable Healthy Lunches
Just because your meal is healthy doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all budget-friendly lunch ingredients. Give your child a serving of whole grains and sneak more vegetables into their diet by stuffing them into a sandwich! Crunchy, fresh vegetables tossed with your favorite salad dressing and a little bit of low-fat cheese for extra calcium and protein make a great wrap – just make sure you use a whole wheat tortilla! Some other nutrient-packed and money smart lunch ideas include:
- Pasta salad. Whole grain pastas are affordable at $2-3 per box, and pasta salad can be made in a big batch for a whole week of lunches!
- Pinwheel sandwiches. Spread a whole grain tortilla or flatbread with your favorite condiment (we like hummus, which is cheap and easy to make at home by blending chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice), layer on leafy greens and sliced turkey, roll it up, and slice the roll into one-inch circles.
- Black bean soup. Beans are as budget-friendly as it gets, and black bean soup is a hearty lunch for the cold weather months.
Healthy Lunches for Picky Eaters
When your kids are particular about what they eat, it can be hard to come up with new healthy foods for them to try. One way around this is to make healthy swaps for food they already enjoy. Try:
- A favorite sandwich on whole grain bread instead of white bread
- Carrot sticks and dip instead of potato chips
- Applesauce instead of pudding
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try making homemade Lunchables! We don’t know a kid who doesn’t love Lunchables, and they’re easy to make on your own. A serving of whole grain crackers or quartered whole wheat pita bread, sliced low-fat cheese, your choice of deli meat (try a low sodium version), and your child’s favorite fruit is all you need. Not only is this healthier, but it will make even the pickiest eater happy.
Healthy Lunches for High Schoolers
Teenager too cool for PB&J? This calls for a grain bowl! Grain bowls are popular options at healthy restaurants, and they’re simple to whip up at home. There are more ways to make a grain bowl than there are days in the week, but the basic elements are:
- Grains, like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and farro
- Greens, like romaine lettuce, spinach, and spring mix
- Protein, like chicken breast or beans
- Dressing, like olive oil and lemon juice
Grain bowls can include just about anything you’d put in a salad. Nuts and seeds are a popular addition, as are vegetables, cheese, and fruits like sliced apples or berries. Since grain bowls are easy to fix, encourage your teen to take the lead in making their lunch. There’s no time like the present to start developing an interest in healthy food!
We hope these spark your imagination and help you make exciting, healthy lunches for your kids. Does your family have a favorite healthy school lunch? Share them with us on social media!