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 ­čśë 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 ­čÖé
  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 ­čÖé

Week 5 Challenge: Eat at Home

I love eating out. As a mom, I appreciate when a meal is prepared, delivered, and cleaned up for me…all I have to do is make a decision on where I want to go and what I want to eat. I like two types of restaurants…the old trusted places┬áthat serve my favorites and the new age modern farm to table type restaurants. I like different, ordering things I’ve never tried before, or what the wait staff thinks is awesome (they usually are pretty good judges). But eating out can get you in trouble with your weight management goals.

A┬álot of calories are hidden in the large┬ádishes restaurants prepare. If you don’t remember anything else from this post remember that fat, sugar, and salt adds a lot of flavor so restaurants put a lot in┬átheir food. Why is that important? Making a similar dish at home can cut calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and quite possibly portion sizes, obviously helping with your weight management goals.

What does this mean? It means eating more homemade meals. It means cooking at home and preparing meals. For some of you this is scary. You’re busy, you have a full time job, you are a mom, father, you’re single and it’s hard to cook for one, you have a hectic schedule…I know, I get it. Not so long ago I was a wife, mom, and worked full time at a job I absolutely adored. Now I’m a full time stay at home wife/mom to an amazing husband and 3 beautiful children. Life is busy…and I have no doubt┬álife will continue to be busy…for many years.

Even though life can be┬áhectic┬áI get so much joy out of making a delicious and healthy meal for my family. Since we have 3 little ones we don’t eat out much. We do get take out every week as a treat (mom doesn’t cook on Friday) but we save a lot of money and calories by eating homemade the other days.

Healthy cooking doesn’t have to be difficult,┬áexpensive, or time consuming. Cooking well does take some meal planning, grocery shopping, recipes (or ideas), and some kitchen equipment but it’s not as hard as you think!

So what are the real benefits of eating homemade food rather than eating out all the time?

  1. Saves you money. Sure the health benefits are there but if we are talking real life, it’s so much cheaper to make your own food than going out to eat.
  2. Less fat. Restaurants add butter, margarine, trans-fats, saturated fat, fat fat fat. Fat adds flavor…a lot of delicious flavor. At home you should definitely add fat to your food but use oils like canola, olive, grape seed, etc.
  3. Less salt. We eat too much salt. A lot of salt. Restaurants add salt because it tastes good. Even in while cooking pasta restaurants salt their water heavily.
  4. Less calories. From large portions to more fat and more sugar, eating out can pack on the calories! Cooking at home you can control the calories by cooking well and watching your portion sizes.
  5. It’s a good way to bring families together. From meal planning, to grocery shopping, and finally meal preparation cooking at home can include every member of the family. Kids can be an important part of eating well and kids tend to eat healthier if they are involved in meal preparation. Check out Eat Together PA for great tips!

Think about how much you eat out. Keep in mind breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that you buy “out”. You don’t have to totally cut it out just cut back. Make it a goal this week to eat in (or pack from home) more than you eat out.