With back to school in full swing school lunches become a part of our daily routine. I’m trying to get into the habit of packing them the night before because it makes mornings smoother, and it gives me plenty of time in case I need to head to the grocery store.
Packing affordable and healthy lunches isn’t always easy though, so when the folks at GIANT offered some advice from their team of nutritionists (and a chance to win grocery money for readers) I jumped at the chance to learn more. Despite years of ‘on the job’ experience it’s always good to hear what tips nutrition experts have to make our lunches even better.
Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas from GIANT
Involve your child in planning their lunch meals from grocery shopping to meal preparation like washing fruits and vegetables, and mixing ingredients together.
Think beyond White Bread:
Choose whole grain bread or mix it up with raisin or cinnamon bread, a mini bagel, a tortilla wrap or a pita.
Try this: For added fun, cut your sandwiches into fun shapes with large cookie cutters.
Select sliced lean or low-fat brands of lunch meat like turkey, chicken, lean ham or lean roast beef.
Alternatives to Sandwiches:
Looking for alternatives to the basic sandwich? Below are some great ways to add variety to your lunchbox.
- Pair low-fat cheeses with whole grain crackers.
- Toast whole grain waffles and spread with almond butter and fruit-spread (jam with no added sugar), cut in half and put in plastic zip top bags while warm. By lunch or snack-time, they will be a perfect texture to eat.
- Cut up fresh veggies and pair with low-fat ranch dressing, peanut butter or any nut butter, sunflower seed butter, veggie dip, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, or hummus.
Make a Rainbow:
Make lunches as bright and colorful as possible using plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Try this: Thread grapes, blueberries, orange segments and other fruit favorites on a plastic coffee stirrer. Make veggie kabobs with cucumber chunks, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper wedges, and other veggies.
Make Your Own Trail Mix:
Have kids make their own trail mix. It’s a fun way to get them involved in making lunch, and trail mix can provide lots of energy for their busy day.
Try this: Try mixing whole grain cereal, dried fruits like raisins, dried cranberries, or dry mango-pieces, sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or nuts), and whole grain pretzels. You can add up to a tablespoon of dark chocolate, too.
Make your own portion-sized snacks. Simply buy big bags of snacks and some plastic bags. Use measuring cups or a scale to make serving sized portions. The kids can help!
Try this: For a healthier snack that satisfies salty, crunchy cravings, replace potato chips with a bag of popcorn or consider corn or whole grain chips and salsa.
New Food on the Block
Introduce a new food every week. When you and your child are grocery shopping, have them agree to pick out one new fruit or vegetable to try for that week.
Try this: Some foods your kids can try include starfruit, honey crisp apples, mango slices, butternut squash, eggplant, and jicama.
Change it Up
Keep your kids guessing by changing up the lunchbox routine. The same meals can get boring for kids.
Try this: Rotate the types of protein, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains you use.
Make it Cool:
Use an insulated lunch bag and ice pack to pack your child’s lunch.
Try this: Place a frozen water bottle into the insulated bag in the morning and it will not only keep the food cold, but will be thawed to drink at lunchtime!
For more healthy tips visit GIANT’s Healthy Ideas page.
$50 GIANT Giveaway
Enter to win a $50 GIANT gift card to help you pack healthy school lunches. Simply comment and share what tip you plan to try this school year with your kids.
For a list of full giveaway rules see our giveaway disclosure and rules. Please not that all winners must be 18 or over, and recipients of prizes or tickets are responsible for payment of any and all taxes on the prizes or tickets. Winners will be chosen and announced (on this post) September 3rd, 2013.