Summer Lunchin’

I’m baaaaack! It’s been a while and honestly, I wasn’t inspired enough to give you content that I felt would be worthy of you reading. I took on too much and my brain/heart just wasn’t in it BUT today I felt super inspired because I was trying to wrack my brain about what to give the boys for lunch. Summer is coming and if you have kids who are going to be home or you are going to need to pack them lunches for summer camp, you came to the right place!

I decided to pull together a list of delicious, quick, healthy, and low-cost lunches for you and your kiddos this summer. So what makes a healthy lunch anyway? Welllll I’m so glad you asked! A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be gourmet, take forever to make, or break the bank! It just has to be balanced enough for you and your kiddos to get nourishment and energy that you’ll need to conquer all of the summers most fun moments!

A healthy lunch consists of:
– Protein (for snack/hunger control): turkey lunch meat, peanut butter, beans, peas, cheese, greek yogurt, chicken, tuna, ground beef/chicken/turkey
– Carbohydrates (for energy): whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, pasta, pizza crust, corn, beans, peas, lentils, fruit (yep it counts!)
– Veggies (because I said so): carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, veggie soup, tomato soup, snap peas, cauliflower, etc etc etc

From there, get creative! Keeping it low cost is a cinch…seriously, don’t make this too hard on yourself and too time-consuming either! If you use SNAP benefits, these ideas will help your access money stretch! If you get food from your local food bank/pantry keep your eyes peeled for these things! If you’re watching your food budget (like I do) take these tips to heart!

  • Make a meal plan and stick with it. Check your pantry for foods you already have and use them up! Cans of tuna? Tuna salad/casserole this week. Pasta sauce, yep you guessed it! Some kind of pasta dish! From there create a grocery list (if you get food bank items, meal plan around them). ONLY BUY WHAT IS ON YOUR LIST!
  • ROTATE IDEAS! Seriously, don’t reinvent the wheel. Your kiddos (and you) will have your favorite lunches so use them once a week/once every other week. They’ll love you for it and so will your brain 😉 You know that works, they’ll eat it, and it’ll be budget friendly, right?!
  • Because it’s summer, get your fruits and veggies FRESH! They’ll be much cheaper (especially if you plant a garden) and definitely tastier! Check local farmers markets to see if they accept the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC and senior assistance). Many farmers markets also accept access cards. SNAP also covers fruits and vegetables you can plant! You’ll find the SNAP logo on the approved ones.

10 Fun Ideas For Summer Lunchin’

  1. Tomato soup and cheesy flatbread – canned tomato soup will work just fine for this but if you want to make homemade, go for it! I use flatbread or thin pizza crusts…brush with oil, sprinkle with garlic powder/oregano/basil/black pepper, and a small layer of cheese. Bake or broil until cheese is melted! Cut in strips for easy tomato soup dipping!
  2. Tuna salad with crackers and celery – tuna, mayo, and diced pickles are how I like to make my tuna salad. Shoot for a cracker that gives some fiber like wheat thins or triscuits. Serve with a side of celery sticks (these are great to dip into the tuna salad too)!
  3. Garden fresh pasta salad – whole grain or high fiber pasta makes a great base but you can use regular pasta too! Use any veggies you have and add some cubed cheese for protein. My favorite dressing is an Italian style (I make it homemade) but use whatever you like.
  4. Grilled chicken salad with black beans – after making grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in a salad! Top with black beans and your favorite dressing and you’ve got yourself a balanced lunch.
  5. Corn tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa – my sister makes the.best.guacamole.ever…seriously! Her secret ingredient is sour cream! A great substitute for sour cream is Greek yogurt AND it adds tons of protein! Making guacamole with avocado, limes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and greek yogurt and serve it with corn tortilla chips (whole grain plus more protein), and salsa!
  6. Sushi-like hummus wraps – grab your favorite hummus flavor, very thinly sliced cucumbers, julienned carrots and peppers, and whole grain wrap. Make it and roll it up tightly! Cut it into small slices like sushi!!!
  7. Turkey bacon BLTs – Turkey bacon, lettuce, garden fresh tomatoes, and whole grain bread. It’s old school but it is SO GOOD! PS if your kiddos don’t like tomatoes, try it with cucumbers instead 🙂
  8. Egg salad sandwiches – Hardboil up a dozen of eggs (use them for this salad, chopped up in a veggie salad, for snacks, etc), I like pickles, celery, and mayo in my egg salad! Gives it a little pop and crunch. Spread on whole grain bread with tomato and lettuce…mmmmmm.
  9. Turkey and cheese kabobs – go to the deli and get turkey breast in a chunk. Buy block cheese and then cube both into one-inch cubes. Along with the cubes of meat and cheese, add cherry tomatoes, pepper squares, lettuce pieces, mushrooms to the kabob sticks…whatever veggie your kiddos like! On the side use honey mustard dressing for dipping!
  10. Apple slice PBJ – Instead of using bread, make it super fun with apple slices! Cut the apple with the core still in the middle OR use an apple corer to take out the core before cutting them in slices (like a sandwich). Put the peanut butter and a small amount of jam or jelly on one apple slice and then top with another apple slice! Fun and delish!

Don’t reinvent the wheel either! I know ya’ll like looking on Pinterest for ideas but what do your kiddos like? Expand on that! If they enjoy mac ‘n cheese MAKE IT FOR THEM ONCE IN A WHILE! They should have a veggie with it, so give them an option of green beans, broccoli, salad, whatever they like. Hot dogs on your kid’s favorite list? FINE! It’s not an everyday kind of thing but once in a while have fun with it! Make them their favorite veggie side dish and have a picnic outside.

Remember parents…you only have 18 summers (sometimes less if they decide to get a summer job when they are 16) with your kiddos. Don’t make the lunch menu a point of contention with kiddos. Keep it fun, incorporate the things they like too, help them try new things, and eat together!!!!! The love and skills they will gain eating together this summer at lunch are going to be taken with them throughout life. Nurture that as you eat your BLTs on a blanket in your back yard 🙂

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!