If the idea of finding healthy, satisfying school lunches for your kids on a budget is daunting, we have just the thing to help you get your lunch packing mojo back, and it’s just in time for the first week of school.
Nutritionist Alaya Bash of bashnutrition.com offers five colorful, delicious and fun lunch ideas that will keep your kids excited and nourished, after a delicious summer of picnics, parties and playful eating.
Copy these 5 healthy lunch ideas (and be sure to grab Alaya’s healthy lunch packing tips below):
1) Tuna salad on spinach, pickles, cherry tomatoes, gluten free crackers, cucumber slices, grass-fed yogurt, almond butter, plantain chips.
2) Hard boiled eggs, Mediterranean potato salad, cucumber slices, applesauce, raspberries.
3) Turkey rolls, fresh mozzarella, butter lettuce, apple slices, baby carrots, raw almonds and cashews.
4) Salami, fresh mozzarella, pitted kalamata olives, spinach, strawberries, banana, raw almonds and cashews.
5) Ground meat of choice (beef pictured) seasoned taco-style, rice, fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, tangerine, lime.
Ready to embark on your own healthy lunch packing adventure? Alaya also has five useful tips to consider when packing lunches, and a bonus on how to save money while making sure your kids’ nutritional needs are met.
1. Start out with whole foods, or foods that come just as they would be found at their source, in their simplest form. Think an apple on the core, a carrot with the skin and tops on) as your starting point. You can cook, chop or break down or throw together these whole ingredients to make them kid-friendly, just make sure you’re starting with the whole ingredients.
2. Look for products with a short, recognizable ingredients list that have been minimally processed. Make sure the ingredients are whole-foods based, and that you can pronounce them. Look at the source and quality of those ingredients (recommended key words: organic, local, heritage, grass-fed, non-gmo) and finally, make sure those ingredients have been brought together in a low-impact way (pressing, grinding, dehydrating, fermenting, etc.) Examples: Lara Bars, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Justin’s Nut Butters, whole milk yogurts.
3. Include all three macronutrients: Proteins, Healthy Fats and Carbohydrates. All three nutrient types serve an important purpose in our metabolic functioning, and ideally every meal we eat will have an appropriate balance of macros to help us perform optimally throughout the day. Find macronutrient food examples as usda.gov.
4. Eat the rainbow: Each color of the rainbow when found in nature, corresponds to a micronutrient (vitamins, minerals) and therefore by eating a wide selection of colors of whole foods, you’re insuring that you’re getting a well-balanced micronutrient profile. Just like macronutrients, micronutrients are crucial to metabolic and immune system functioning and thus overall health.
5. Make it fun! Kids like to feel empowered in their food choices, and playful in life, so give them a variety of hands-on ingredients that allow them to explore and adventure as they desire, while they eat. Consider investing in some colorful, sustainable lunch or bento boxes, to make food more visually appealing and approachable to kids.
Bonus budget tips:
- Shop sales, coupons, and multiple stores to find deals on quality foods.
- Buy food that’s local and in season. Get it from the source when possible.
- Buy in bulk, then store or freeze.
- Meal plan and food prep, portioning out meals for the week.