NBA FIT Healthy School Lunches
By: Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple, www.thehealthyapple.com
Aside from the stable PB & J and turkey sandwich, here are a few creative lunch ideas to help you and your kids out of your school lunch rut.
• Rotisserie turkey and Swiss cheese on wheat bread; sliced turkey, red bell pepper strips, and cottage cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, with Greek or spicy mustard; or tuna or chicken salad tossed with dried cranberries and celery atop whole grain crackers.
• Reheat last night’s leftovers such as stir-fry, chili, stews, whole grain pasta with natural tomato sauce.
• Whole grain bagel or rice cakes with a natural nut butter such as almond or macadamia nut butter for extra protein.
• Baby carrots, celery, sliced cucumbers and whole grain pitas served with hummus.
• Fresh fruit; diced and cut up apples, mango, pineapple, oranges and bananas.
• Natural air-popped popcorn alone or mixed with raisins and nuts.
• Whole grain tortilla chips and natural salsa without added sugars.
• Whole wheat pitas served with black bean dip, melted low fat cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt.
• Low fat vanilla yogurt or soy ice cream with fresh fruit and granola.
• Cooked rolled oats mixed with rice milk and peanuts.
• Low fat cheese sticks or cubes are great finger foods for kids.
• Diced tofu, toasted nuts and chickpeas, dried fruit and trail mix and homemade oatmeal granola bars are also great snack options.
• Sliced apple with a tiny container of nut butter, raisins and unsweetened coconut flakes.
• Edamame – steamed with a little sea salt
• Homemade guacamole made from a mashed avocado and served with tortilla chips
• Homemade trail mix with dried fruit, almonds, cashews, and sesame sticks and dried fruit such as pears, prunes, cherries, cranberries and apples.
• Homemade cereal mix with crunchy, hi-fiber bran cereals with at least 5 g. fiber and less than 4 g. sugar with a short ingredient list!
• Whole grain English muffin topped with low fat cheddar cheese and tomato.
• Use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches, pancakes, or cheese slices into a fun treat or snack.
• Fruit smoothies: Blend ripe bananas, berries, Greek plain yogurt, honey, lemon juice and frozen fruit with ice.
• Create your own popsicles: Freeze leftover smoothies, all natural freshly squeezed juices, seltzer and cranberry juice, etc. into popsicle molds.
• Freeze grapes covered in dark chocolate and rolled in unsweetened coconut for a tasty dessert.
• Fruit Parfaits: Layer fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, honey or agave nectar, cinnamon and trail mix or granola into cups. Top with a sprinkle of nuts for extra protein!
• You can take advantage of local store specials or bulk purchases on these commonly used items.
• Frozen fish, chicken and vegetables often have the same nutritional value as fresh but are less expensive and can be stored longer with less waste. I have included these items in the event you have extra freezer space.
• Because Scramble recipes emphasize healthy ingredients you can eventually “crowd out” unhealthy pantry items with these nutritious basics.
• Your grocery trips each week should be even faster. You should be able to cross off many of the items from your Scramble shopping list and focus only on fresh produce, meats and dairy.
The Healthy Apple’s Pantry Staples:
• Oils: olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, nonstick cooking spray
• Balsamic vinegar, Red Wine vinegar
• Vinaigrette salad dressing (no added sugars)
• Spicy and Dijon mustard
• Ketchup and barbeque sauce (no added sugars)
• Low Fat Mayonnaise
• Greek plain yogurt
• Flour: bread crumbs, cornmeal, flour
• Sweeteners: white and brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar
• Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, couscous, wild rice, buckwheat, spelt
• Whole grain pasta
• Low Sodium Soy Sauce
• Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
• 26 oz. jars of red pasta sauce
• 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
• 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
• 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
• 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
• Frozen vegetables (no added sauces or additives)
• Frozen fruits (no added sauces or additives)
• Canned beans
• Whole grain tortilla chips and mini pita wedges
• Natural nut butters such as almond, macadamia, peanut
• Nuts: pine nuts, walnuts, slivered almonds
• Fresh or Frozen fish fillets (no added sauces or additives)
• Boneless chicken and/or turkey breasts
• Ground Bison (lean red meat)
• Fresh Fruit
• Fresh Vegetables
• Dried Fruits
• Homemade Trail Mix
• bay leaves
• black pepper
• chili powder
• curry powder
• sea salt
We’re all pinching pennies these days…the economy sure isn’t looking so hot and we could all use a little recession lesson on how to cut back without cutting out.’
Cook At Home
• Cooking at home is almost always healthier and cheaper than going out to dinner, ordering takeout, or buying prepared foods. Plan for a week of meals so you don’t waste food; you can have your meal planning and grocery lists ready each week so you also don’t waste time.
• Before grocery shopping, try to use up food in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Stretch your budget by making a meal at the end of the week out of ingredients you haven't finished such as omelets, quesadillas, stir-fries, chili’s, soups, and pasta sauces.
• Use leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze half for a future dinner to easily create 2 meals in 1.
• Use the food in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Many of us have food that we’ve forgotten about in these locations. Defrost and use something each week. Make a list of what’s in there and label and date each container.
Make a List - BEFORE You Arrive At The Food store
• Always arrive with a complete list of everything you need. This way you are more likely to purchase the foods that you need and will cut back on impulse shopping on expensive and unhealthy foods.
Choose Whole Produce
• In the produce section, steer clear of pre-washed and pre-cut veggies; these tend to be much pricier than their whole produce friends. For instance, an entire bunch of kale or collard greens is about .99/lb. compared to a pre-washed, pre-cut Dole package of Kale, which can run you up to $2.50! Skip the bagged pre-washed/pre-cut veggies and stick to their whole buddies. You’ll be surprised how much more volume you can purchase for less money! Plus, I always find that the fresh, whole produce tastes so much better than a packaged, pre-cut option.
• Frozen fruits and vegetables are inexpensive, as well as healthy, delicious and convenient. Frozen at their peak of freshness they are a healthy and economic alternative to fresh produce.
Use Less Meat
• Cooking with non-meat proteins like beans, tofu and eggs is very economical and healthy. You can often substitute boneless chicken for fresh fish in recipes, or use less expensive frozen fish and shrimp.
• When looking for each specific item on the food store shelves, be sure to purchase the store’s brand name items; this will always save you money. I love Whole Foods 365 brand; it tastes amazing and it is usually cheaper than the other brands. Trader Joe’s also carries a wonderful variety of foods using their own Trader Joe’s label. If you do not see a generic brand when shopping, feel free to ask an employee at customer service-they will be able to show you where these products are located.
• Moreover, many generic brands are placed on lower or higher shelves instead of at eye-level. This is mainly so that ‘impulse’ shoppers grab the first package they see, which is the ‘expensive’ brand name option. Take a minute to bend down or stand on those tippy-toes to see what generic options are available.
Buy in Bulk
• Have a membership to B.J.’s or Costco Wholesale? Purchase your meat and poultry in bulk to save you and your family money (as well as countless trips to the food store).
• Stock up on staples, such as olive oil, rice, canned beans, canned tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen chopped spinach, frozen peas, onions, lemons, limes, salsa, balsamic vinegar, and nuts.
• Food stores have many basics in bulk including granola, beans, whole grains and nuts. Be sure to stock up on these essentials by saving money and buying them in bulk.
• Many wholesale food stores also offer beans and frozen vegetables in bulk. These can easily be frozen into individual Ziploc bags for your convenient use.
• Look for bulk deals on poultry and fish as you can easily break up the large packages into 1 or 2 lb. packages before freezing them.
• Opt for large bags of shredded cheese and freeze 1 lb. portions of them, or buy blocks of cheese and grate it yourself. Buy large containers of items like unsweetened yogurt, applesauce, raisins and whole grain snacks, instead of single serving sizes, and divide them into reusable containers yourself.
• Buy food when it’s on sale, especially non-perishables.
Always Eat Before You Food Shop
• We all know what happens when we end up walking the isles of the food store when our little tummy is growling for some grub. Don’t make the mistake of going food shopping on an empty stomach. If you are hungry before you go, have a snack before you head out. This way, when you arrive at the store–you won’t have the urge to purchase based on impulse because you’re hungry. Moreover, this will keep your paws away from the items that you do not need in your cart and your pantry.