Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Lunch to Work for You

Between fast food joints, school lunch programs and Chinese buffets, grabbing a good-for-you lunch on the go is getting harder and harder. Want to pack healthier lunches for the whole family? It's easy -- all you need to do is a little planning. The Goal: Make Healthy Lunches for the Whole Family, Monday - Thursday Start by jotting down everyone's likes, dislikes, and never-trieds. The overlaps in the "likes" column will form the basis for your meals. Throw in items from the "never-trieds" column here and there, so everyone gets the chance to try new foods. Once in awhile, pick something from the "dislikes" column and try cooking it a new way -- people often have an aversion to a particular food preparation more than the food itself. The Plan:Pick one day of the week for grocery shopping, and two for food preparation. On each prep day, make two lunches, with enough servings for everyone. For example: Shop and prepare two days' worth of food on Sunday. Prepare the remaining two days on Tuesday night. Voila! Lunches for everyone. Once a week, let everyone eat what they want to, with some parameters (more on that later). Here are some meal ideas: 1. Wraps The problem with sandwiches for lunch is that they're usually all carbohydrates and protein, minus the occasional iceberg lettuce leaf and tomato slice. Whole grain wraps are a tasty, healthier alternative. Some filling ideas: - Roasted vegetables and hummus - Chicken with avocado and tomato slices with oil and vinegar Recipe: Greek Salad Wrap 2. Burritos Burritos made with whole grain tortillas can be served either warm or cold, making them an easy meal for elementary schoolers and office dwellers alike. For add-ins, try salsa, guacamole, or low-fat cheese and sour cream. Some filling ideas: - Chicken and jalapeno - Shrimp and tomatillos Recipe: Grilled Veggie Burritos 3. Hearty Grain Salads Adding together a lean protein, veggies and a whole grain is a complete healthy lunch alternative. Some ideas: - Chicken, broccoli and brown rice - Whole wheat pasta salad with tuna, fresh veggies and a vinaigrette Recipe: Refried Soba Noodles with Tofu 4. Soups Whether you're making a chilled summer gazpacho or a hearty winter stew, soups are easy to transport, and a great way to get a ton of vegetables into one dish. Recipe: Turkey Chili 5. Sides and Snacks Both kids and adults alike need something to munch on. Try one of these alternatives to chips and pretzels: Baby carrots with hummus Celery with peanut butter Cheese and grapes Air-popped popcorn Recipe: Spiced Roasted Chickpeas 6. Something Sweet Got some sweet teeth in the family? Give them one of these afternoon pick-me-ups: Fruit: Dried or regular (dried is sweeter) Yogurt with honey Recipe: Sweet and Salty Trail Mix 7. Better Choices Let's face it -- you aren't always going to eat the healthiest when left to your own devices, and neither is your family. Set some parameters for when they're on their own -- eat at least one piece of fruit, choose whole grain bread, or have a small salad before your meal. Teaching them to take small steps toward healthy eating now will have a big impact down the road, and not just for them -- for you, too!

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