As I said the other day, it is easy to reach for junk when you are rushing through breakfast and lunch. Here are some of my ideas for keeping lunch wholesome without spending a huge amount of time cooking or blowing your grocery budget.
1. Eat leftovers.
Since you are probably more likely to take time and effort to cook real food for dinner, make a few extra portions to have on hand for lunches. They are easy to reheat and serve again. Sometimes you can recreate leftovers in just a few minutes. For example, turn leftover roast chicken into a quick salad topping or soup. One of my favorite ways to turn leftovers into a meal is fried rice, since it comes together better with day old rice anyway.
2. Ditch the bread!
When we aren’t eating leftovers, and I need something quick, I slice up cheese, roll up some lunch meat, then I just fill the rest of the plate with whatever veggies and fruits I have on hand. Guacamole makes a wonderful real food dip for veggies, or roll it up with your meat and cheese in a lettuce leaf. If one of your go-to lunches is peanut butter sandwiches (it is here), but you want to ditch the bread, try using apples instead.
If you are wondering whether my kids will eat all of the fruit and veggies I serve, the answer is yes…and no. I try to give them a wide variety to choose from including some things I know they like and some things that are new to try. And sometimes they get a “no thank-you bite” of something they say they don’t like. I have seen my kids change their minds about more than one item on their plate they claimed not to like. It doesn’t always work, but my goal is to just provide them with opportunity and hope they take it. Here is a typical plate with leftover chicken and a variety of veggies.
In case you are wondering what veggies they do like, Grubby (3.5 years) prefers broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumbers. Chubby (2 years) gobbles down guacamole with me, has been caught eating a tomato like an apple, and also likes cucumbers, carrots, and sometimes tolerates broccoli. The other day I hid squash in their pasta and they ate every bite! I can also sometimes get them to swallow greens in the form of a smoothie.
Note: Remember to look for lunch meat without additives or sugar. I like the Applegate brand and get it for a decent price at Trader Joe’s, but opt for the Hormel Naturals if I find them on sale. (Just my humble opinion. No one paid me to say this.)
3. If you do have grains, experiment with grains other than wheat.
I have experimented with Ezekiel bread, a sprouted grain bread (not just wheat). I liked it. Grubby was fine with it, but Chubby was unsure. I did find that I had to freeze it because it has a shorter shelf life than regular grocery store bread (a good indicator that it is not full of junk!)
I have also experimented with some different varieties of organic corn chips (organic to avoid GMOs). I found the sweet potato chips pictured above (from Way Better Snacks) and was impressed with the ingredient list and taste. The kids loved them, and they are a terrific vehicle for guacamole!
These options can sometimes be a tad expensive, though, so we only do this occasionally. The Ezekiel bread sells for a good price at Trader Joe’s ($4 and change), and I found the Way Better Snacks chips on sale at Whole foods (2 for $5) and decided to try them.
4. Cook something!
Don’t hate me, but it won’t kill you to spend a few minutes in the kitchen. Whole food is often surprisingly simple and easy to pull together in a few minutes. If you work or have a really busy schedule, don’t rule out batch cooking on the weekends or in the evenings so that you have meals that easy to pack or reheat for lunch. Have little ones running circles around you and can’t figure out how to get the meal cooked before they burn the house down? Let them help! I am trying to work on getting my kids more involved in the food prep process, even it if it is just giving the food a quick stir or setting/clearing the table. I tend to be a little controlling in the kitchen (what can I say, I cook for a living), but I’m trying to relinquish some of that control in the interest of teaching my children how to cook and eat well. If you are just starting on the road to eating/cooking whole foodstry cooking lunch just once a week. Here are a few ideas to get you started.