Eating healthy is often associated with the false mindset that it’s harder than the other, often more expensive, options such as eating out or buying pre-packed meals. Change For Life, an initiative by the Department of Health in the UK, states that one of the myths people believe is that healthy foods are more expensive. The researchers say that “loads of people think this is true, but it’s actually more likely you will find a lot of cheap healthy meal ideas that help save you money." Finding ways to pack great, well-rounded lunches and snacks for your children to take with them while remaining cost effective can be a struggle. From the early morning rush before school, getting the kids off to summer activities and making sure lessons are covered, it can be hard to squeeze in healthy meals and snacks. Try these simple ways to make healthy pack-n-go snacks and meals simple:
Fruits and Veggies– Including a variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way for children to get fiber, minerals and vitamins that they need to function well. There are many ways to get children to try the fruits and veggies – fresh, dried, in yogurts, smoothies, and granola are just a few ways to entice children to try a healthier food option. Try homemade chips made from kale, eggplant, potatoes or squashes for a healthier alternative to store-bought brands. Making these at home will also get the kids excited to try something they helped make!
Do Extra – When washing, cutting and preparing healthy foods, prepare just a little extra so you can save time later. When healthier foods are easier to access, individuals are more willing to eat them. Make fruits and veggies or healthy grains easy to snack on and easier to add to homemade meals. This will also save you time in the kitchen.
Whole Grains – It’s simple to add whole grains to lunchboxes! Throw in some whole grain crackers (*Tip…there are lots of flavor varieties), add homemade granola or trail mix, use whole grain crust for pizzas and whole grain breads for sandwiches. These are some really simple ways to make meals healthier without spending more at the grocery store.
Healthy Dessert – While sugary foods aren’t good to consume in mass, they can be enjoyed as a special treat. One easy way to have something special but keep it healthy is making a fruit and yogurt parfait, homemade fruit leather, fresh berries or oatmeal raisin (or cranberry) cookies! According to the Whole Kids Foundation, it’s all about making gradual transitions for youth. Adding something sweet to go with fruit is an excellent way to make healthier decisions. For example, making bite-sized caramel apples or putting fresh fruits in jello, is a great way to include beloved dessert items with vitamin-rich fruit!
Take it on the Road – Keeping a bag of trail-mix, carrot sticks, whole apples to munch or pretzels in the car is a great way to fuel children while giving them something healthy to curb their hunger.
There are hundreds of resources out there with many ideas for simple lunches and snacks that not only taste good but are good for the budget and easy to transport. Healthy choices provide the nutrients that children’s bodies need to have energy throughout their day, good memory and building their bones and muscles to be stronger! Let’s help the children out by packing healthy choices when we’re on the go!
Sarah Ransom, University of Tennessee Extension Service
Eat A Rainbow, Whole Kids Foundation https://www.wholekidsfoundation.org/downloads/better-bites/better-bites-eat-a-rainbow.pdf
UK Department of Health, Mythbuster - the facts about healthy eating and exercise http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/food-exercise-mythbuster.aspx
USDA Choose MyPlate, Prepare Healthy Meals from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-prepare-meals