Healthy Lunch Box Ideas For Busy Families

Great Eating Tips for Busy Families: School Lunch Ideas

By Dr. Christine Wood

With the holidays in full swing on top of our already hectic schedules, eating right and livinghealthy lunch a healthy lifestyle often seem like overwhelming tasks.

Luckily, Dr. Christine Wood, USANA Scientific Advisory Council member, practicing pediatrician, author, and instructor on healthy lifestyles for parents and children, offers her expert advice to help you brave the winter months with gusto.

Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Avoid meat with nitrates by buying lunch meat from health food stores, which often carry healthier choices. Add sprouts, avocado, lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, cranberry sauce, hummus, pesto, or low-fat cream cheese spread with some herbs.

Other sandwich ideas: Try organic peanut butter, almond butter, soy butter, or cashew butter with mashed bananas or pureed fruit. For shredded chicken or egg salad sandwiches, add canola mayonnaise, grated carrots or zucchini, diced celery or apples, dried cranberries, pine nuts, flaxseed oil, herbs, or parsley to the sandwich mix. Watch the tuna—there is some concern about their mercury levels.

Use tortillas or pita bread and load it up with a combination of beans, rice, cheese, hummus, or grated vegetables.

Make a pasta, rice, or couscous salad with olive oil and a hint of flaxseed oil. Add any combination of grilled vegetables, tomatoes, herbs, parsley, shredded chicken, sprouts, sunflower or sesame seeds, flaxseed, pesto sauce, cheese, diced apples, celery, or grapes.

For snacks at school, try any fruit, dried fruit, or 100 percent fruit leathers (warning: eating lots of dried fruits can promote tooth decay, but it helps if they eat crunchy fresh carrots or an apple after the dried fruit), nuts (warning: nuts can cause choking in children under 3 or 4 years of age, so use with caution), edamame, celery with peanut butter, carrot sticks with ranch dressing or hummus, pretzels (without the trans fats), or whole-grain crackers or bars.

Pack water or 100 percent fruit juice for a drink. Freeze the water or fruit juice so it stays cold and keeps the rest of the lunch cold, too. Avoid sugary juice drinks with high fructose corn syrup.

Plan to use leftovers from a healthy dinner for lunch the next day. Use a thermos to keep soups or chili warm for lunch.

Make healthy muffins with ingredients like wheat germ, oatmeal, grated carrots, grated zucchini, or bran to pack for lunch.