Saturday, April 30, 2011

Healthy Lunch Options

We were at the park today with some friends. The kids were playing. The husbands were talking music. The ladies were talking about, well.... everything. One of the things we talked about was the healthy food we feed our families. My friend had asked about healthy lunches & I had stalled. For the most part, my kids eat peanut butter sandwiches every day. It's not that we don't know of other, healthy options. They like peanut butter, it's fairly cheap, & it's healthy. However, after leaving the park, I was thinking about healthy lunches (trying to remember some of our faves). So, I thought I'd post some healthy lunch options here.

Pizza
Now, I know that some of you are screaming at your computer, that pizza is NOT a health food. However, it really can be. First, keep in mind that I'm not talking about eating Pizza Hut or frozen pizza. I'm talking about homemade pizza.
When making homemade pizza crust (really easy, by the way), use wheat flour for at least half the flour. Don't add salt - you don't need it. You aren't in need of a preservative for something that will be eaten that day. You can add herbs (preferably fresh) to the dough for added flavor.
Don't grease the pizza pan. If  you have a pizza pan, not a stone, spray it with fat-free cooking spray & lightly dust with cornmeal.
Make your own pizza sauce, even if you just use a can of tomato puree & add seasonings to it. Again, fresh herbs will add a ton of flavor, without the added sodium, fat, etc. Use fresh garlic, onions, sage, oregano, basil, and black pepper. Consider adding some diced tomatoes and maybe some veggies to your sauce.
When you put on toppings, go for some healthy ones. Try adding veggies to your pizza, instead of just meat. Go for a spinach & chicken pizza. If you have to have pepperoni, try turkey pepperoni. It is just as good, but healthier.
Go light on the cheese or use use stronger tasting cheeses. Sprinkle some herbs on top.
Shrink the size. One batch of pizza dough should be enough for 3-4 personal pizzas. You could also consider using flour tortillas, biscuits, english muffins, or bagels, instead of pizza dough.
You can also make your own pizza rolls & freeze them.

Corn dog muffins
Make up a batch of corn muffin mix. Cut up some hot dogs. You can go for whichever hot dogs you prefer. These work with turkey dogs & all beef dogs. I'd assume any hot dog would be fine. Mix hot dog pieces into corn muffin mix. Pour into muffin pan & bake.

Salad
If your kids will eat salad, there's no reason not to have one for lunch. You should add some protein to it, though, to help keep them full until dinner. Protein can come from left over meat, lunch meat, nuts, or hard boiled eggs. Also, add some fruits to it. Apples, pears, mandarin oranges, grapes, and strawberries are great salad additions.

Soup
In the colder months, soup makes a great lunch. If you're into cold soups, you can do those in the warmer months.

Use leftovers
You can use leftovers to make entirely new dishes. Make fried rice, stir fry, quesadillas, pasta dishes, or sandwiches.

Of course, don't underestimate the easy stuff like sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches are great. They can be easily dressed up a bit, if you're in the mood for something different. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of cheese. Instead of that plain slice of american, use cheddar, pepperjack, muenster, or a combination of cheeses. You could add tomato slices, a slice of ham, some shredded chicken from last night's dinner, portobello mushroom slices, or maybe a little salsa. Lunch meat sandwiches can be spiced up by toasting them or adding different condiments. Try cranberry mustard, sweet relish, or even some veggie dip (like spinach dip or dill dip). Consider adding some fresh herbs to a little mayo. Make your own spread with greek yogurt, a little lemon juice, and some fresh herbs.

Also, offer a piece of fruit, fresh veggies, applesauce, or a pickle to go with lunch.

These are just some off the top of my head. If I think of more, I'll post them.