Happy New Year! Along with all of the celebration, many of us are thinking about our resolutions and the goals we have for the upcoming year. For many people and families, eating a healthy diet is a top priority. Check out these six tips to make packing your own and your child’s lunches both easy and healthful in 2017.
1. Pop your own popcorn.
Many of us like to have something salty at lunch, but pre-packaged chips, crackers, and popcorn are often full of fats, oils, and preservatives. So, try popping your own popcorn! If you limit the amount of salt and skip the butter, this tasty snack is rather healthy and adds a whole grain to your meal. Remember to store popcorn in an air-tight container to keep it from getting stale through the week.
2. Dip and dunk.
Want a lunch full of flavor? Try picking a dip, such as hummus or peanut butter, and adding healthy dippers. For example, a small container of hummus could be paired with bell peppers or apple slices, carrot sticks, celery, pretzels, or cheese. This fun lunch will be a hit with the kids!
3. Substitute the pudding cup.
If lunch isn’t complete without something sweet, there are still healthy options. Rather than packing a pudding cup or cookies, consider a yogurt treat. Many brands of yogurt now feature flavors, such as banana cream pie and key lime pie, which are designed to appeal to a sweet tooth. Consider freezing the yogurt the night before, when lunch rolls around it should be thawed to the consistency of soft-serve yogurt! For an added treat, top the yogurt with a spoonful of home-made granola.
4. Ditch the sandwich.
Instead of packing a sandwich for lunch every day, consider taking leftovers or creating your own “lunch-ables.” Sliced meats and cheese paired with pretzels and a side of fruit are fun and easy to make ahead.
5. Mix up the salad toppings.
If salads are part of your lunch plan, consider mixing up your toppings. Try adding different combinations of seasonal fruits, croutons, cheese, seeds, nuts, and/or dried berries. This practice will not only add flavor and nutrition to your salads, but will make taking salad for lunch less tiresome. It may help you stick with your healthy eating goals longer, too.
6. Hit all of the food groups.
One of the keys to healthy eating is making sure to hit all the food groups. Try to assemble lunches that include vegetables & legumes, fruit, protein, dairy, and whole grains. Apples, carrot sticks, celery, bell pepper slices, oranges, pears, berries, and grapes are all easy to pack and provide important nutrients. Protein can be found in many products, such as lunch meats, peanut butter, hummus, eggs, tofu, seeds, and nuts. Cheese and yogurts are two kid-friendly dairy products to add to any lunch. Look for the reduced fat versions.