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Feature Article Preparing Healthy School Lunches on a Budget

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Enjoying a nutritious school lunch is a key ingredient for a successful day of learning. But you may be wondering, “How can I provide my kids with healthy, delicious lunches that won’t break the bank?”

A budget-friendly approach is to buy full-size containers of foods and portion them out yourself, rather than buying pre-packaged “snack size” items. While pre-portioned items like chips and cookies may be convenient, they often cost more and may contain excess sodium and fat. By portioning foods out yourself, you save money and are assured that your kids are eating the right amount.

As an alternative to the store-bought snack packs, try using small reusable containers for the different snack items you’ve portioned out yourself.

Another helpful tip is to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate guidelines when choosing items to include in school lunches. Rather than trying to make complicated dishes with lots of expensive ingredients, simply include an assortment of nutritious foods from each food group – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. This will let you choose items that are both healthy and budget friendly.

Get started with some easy ideas:

• Homemade “lunchables” using lean lunch meat, low-fat cheese, whole wheat crackers, fruit slices and a hard-boiled egg

• Hummus and vegetables

• Snack wraps using a whole grain tortilla, low-fat cream cheese, turkey slices and salad mix

• Apple slices and peanut butter or almond butter