Healthy and Easy-to-Prepare Lunches

Planning and smart grocery shopping are essential for feeding your family healthy, nutritious meals. The process can take a great deal of time and effort. To make it even more complicated, gone are the days of hour-long lunch breaks. They are typically only 30 minutes, which means lunches must be simple. They must be prepared and eaten within the 30-minute time frame. This posting offers a few healthy lunch ideas that may be just what you are looking for.

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Remember to include your child in the planning when it comes to making healthy and easy-to-prepare lunches. Whether lunch is for school or to be eaten at home, prepare food you know they will enjoy. When you have their input, you are much more likely to prepare help something they will eat. SO . . .  if your child does not like tortillas, do not prepare wraps for his packed lunch. There is a high probability that he will not eat it.

Be sure to include fresh fruit that he likes. A small bunch of grapes, a cut up apple, banana or other fruit will help with the desire for something sweet and is a much healthier choice than a sugary dessert such as cookies or candy. Get in the habit of cutting fruit into small pieces and placing it in snack size plastic bags as soon as you come home from the grocery store. This works well on almost every fruit except apples, which should be cut as you are preparing lunch. Then, all you have to do is grab a bag of fruit and drop it in the lunch bag.

Pack whole wheat crackers, small pieces of roasted chicken or roast beef and low-fat cheese for your child to make their own “Lunchables” style meal. This provides healthy alternatives for lunch and gives them more control over their meal. The pre-packaged choices really ARE NOT healthy! They are filled with fat and additives – mostly empty calories that are not good for them. However, foods packaged at home in a similar manner, can be very good for them.

Sandwiches are one of the easiest choices when it comes to preparation. To provide healthier sandwiches, use hearty whole grain bread rather than white. This will allow you to give them sandwiches they like, but on healthier bread. You can even pack the ingredients separately so they have the choice of making a sandwich or eating the ingredients on their own.

Make tuna salad sandwiches, wrap them individually, and freeze overnight. When you take them out to put in your child’s lunchbox, they will thaw and be ready to eat when lunch time comes. This also works well with homemade chicken salad sandwiches (made from the leftovers of Sunday’s roasted chicken dinner).

Make up a healthy snack mix with dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, or raisins), unsalted nuts, carob chips and pretzels. If you make these once a week in single-size servings, they will be ready when you need them.

Freeze juice boxes if are sending juice to school with your child for lunch. The juice will thaw in the hours before lunch and it will keep your child’s food cool. You can also use the same idea with other beverages. Personally, I am not a fan of juice boxes since they are primarily sugar water, but if you feel you must, this is one way to do it.

Start with things you know your children will like. Ask them what they prefer and you may be surprised at the answers. Remember to offer foods from each food group as your guide.  Remember to choose natural, whole foods without the additives, minimal sugar, and low salt as often as possible.