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Are you looking for ideas for healthy, affordable and brown-bag-ready lunches? As kids head back to school, the Environmental Working Group wants to help you get the year started right.

Here are five lunch ideas that come in at less than $2! Our staff nutritionist put them together based on the formula we used for our newest shopping guide, Good Food on a Tight Budget.

The Dipping Box  – $1.40

This lunch box is full of sensory delights for little fingers.

  • Fruit skewer with our 15-second Fruit Dip
    • Good skewer choices include apricots, bananas, domestic nectarine and kiwi.
    • Skewer fruit on a popsicle stick for safety.
  • Chef Ann Cooper’s Hummus with veggies and tortilla shapes
    • Good veggie choices include broccoli spears, snow peas, carrot, sliced zucchini and summer squash sticks.
    • Toasted whole-wheat tortilla triangles make excellent dippers too.
    • Kids can cut out fun shapes with cookie cutters (sturdy metal ones work best).
    • For older kids, try a veggie hummus wrap.

Finger Foods   — $1.82

This box has plenty of flair and needs no silverware.

  • Queso blanco quesadilla
    • Queso blanco is a soft cheese you can find in Hispanic markets.  Soft cheeses are easier on the environment than hard cheeses because making them uses less milk and generates less greenhouse gas.
    • Toss in some finely chopped broccoli tops for fun color and cut creatively to encourage eating.
    • Whole-wheat tortillas are a good choice.  Looking for the best tortilla?  Ignore the marketing hype on the package front and give ingredient list a close look –the fewer ingredients, the better.
  • EWG’s Kid-approved roasted veggies
    • Slice veggies into sticks for easier handling.
    • Start with the sweet roasted version to win kids over.
  • No-mix trail mix
    • 1Ž4 cup of raisins, prunes, dried apricots or mangos
    • 1Ž4 cup of raw almonds, pecans or walnuts

 

Leftover King —  $1.62

Leftovers make great lunches.  Before you dig into dinner, put aside a serving for tomorrow’s lunch.

  • Around the world wrap
    • Kids can select their filling at dinner and wrap themselves an extra one for lunch the next day.
  • Melon balls
    • Cantaloupe and watermelon are great choices.
    • Kids can scoop out a big batch with a spoon or melon baller.

The Grab ‘N Go —  $1.64

Sometimes you don’t have leftovers from dinner or you were just too exhausted the night before to put together any of these lunches.  Or maybe you’re like me and running late.  That’s when a go-to grab ‘n go lunch is a real lifesaver.

  • Find a piece of fruit.
    • Good choices include 2 apricots or tangerines, or a banana, pear or domestic nectarine.
    • If your sweetie won’t eat bruised fruit, wrap delicate fruit in an adorable reusable cloth napkin.
  • Grab a handful of vegetables.
    • Snow peas or baby carrots are great to have on hand.  No cutting required!
    • Stuff in a cute reusable pouch.
  • Toss in a hardboiled egg.
    • If you’re a serial grab ‘n go-er, channel your inner Julia Child and make a batch of easy-to-peel eggs ahead of time.
    • Make sure to find a way to keep cold.
  • Snag some whole grain cereal.
    • Yes, we’re talking the cheap, bagged stuff with no sugar.  Your sweetie can enjoy it, especially if you start him on it early.  Some raisins will probably help.
  • Put some yogurt in a cup and throw in a spoon.
    • The earth and your pocket book thank you.
  • Don’t forget the water bottle!

Try the New Healthier School Lunch   –  $2 to 3

This year schools across the country are revamping their lunch thanks to the advocacy of many parents like you. So take a moment to support the new healthier school lunches—that’s one less meal to pack a week.

For fun, your child can play gourmet, taste-test the new school lunches and give you her feedback.  Or she can play detective and find out if the new school lunch is cheaper than a heavily packaged and processed lunch option like a Lunchable.  Let us know what you find out in the comments.

Learn more about feeding your family well on a tight budget here: Good Food on a Tight Budget

Many EWG supporters have been active advocates for improving school lunch.  As we get ready to start a new school year, it's important that we help students embrace the new changes ahead.  As someone who has worked in school cafeterias, I've seen how important it is to have student, teacher and staff buy-in when making changes—especially towards healthier choices.  And research has shown us that kids need to try new foods multiple times before they accept them.  So it's natural for students and food service to find themselves facing a steep learning curve with the new healthier school lunches at first.
That's why it's so important for advocates to engage at this point, when many students will be trying the healthier foods for the first time.  Getting the word out is an important first step to helping students embrace the changes.  It's an important investment in their future health!
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This post was originally published at Environmental Working Group.

This post is part of the MomsRising "Making the School Day Healthier" Blog Carnival headlined by Top Chef Lorena Garcia."


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