If your lunchtime repertoire is limited to chicken nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches and corn dogs, it's time to branch out. Whether you're packing school lunches or making lunches for kids at home, a few simple tricks can add variety and nutrition.
Break out of the peanut-butter-and-jelly rut with interesting breads and spreads. Fill pita pockets with diced turkey, tomatoes, feta cheese, humus or alfalfa sprouts. Spread cream cheese on wheat tortillas or bread and top with cinnamon, apple slices and chopped pecans. Make simple melts by toasting cheese and deli meats on bagels. A drizzle of creamy dressing or a dollop of dip makes any sandwich special.
Healthy Eating Strategies
Sneak veggies into sandwich fillings, soups and sweet breads or whip up a smoothie with yogurt and fresh fruit. Offer dips when serving fruits and vegetables to entice even the pickiest eater. Serve low-fat cheeses, cubed meat, scrambled eggs or cottage cheese for quick protein-rich options.
Salads and Main Dishes
Cold salads are a quick option for lunches, and most of them taste better the following day, making them a good choice for leftovers. Try pasta salads with creamy dressing, Asian-inspired cabbage salads, fruit salads or Mexican bean and corn salads. Add beef or chicken broth to leftover meat and vegetables to make a tasty soup on a cold winter day, using a packet of spicy dry dressing and seasoning mix to kick it up a little. Cook large batches of soups, stews and pasta dishes and freeze them in individual-size containers. Try serving breakfast for lunch. Pancakes, waffles or French toast make a kid-friendly meal any time.
Quick Lunch Strategies
Keep a variety of healthy snack options in the house, and let children help you make lunches. To further encourage independence, post a note in the cupboard detailing what a healthy lunch should include and let older kids make lunches independently. Buy small plastic containers to hold salsa, ranch dressing or ketchup for lunchboxes. To save money, forgo expensive packaged crackers and snacks and buy the same snacks in bulk instead. On weekends, put the snacks into baggies or reusable containers and store them in the cupboard for weekday lunches.
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