I Crave 5 Healthy, Easy Lunches for my Family.

47

April 20, 2012 by mamacravings

“Healthy” can be such a charged word these days. The concept is subjective. Many time it’s self-promoting, both in advertising and in personal lifestyle.

How embarrassing.

After that spill, it’s proving a little difficult to transition into my own view of “healthy” without sounding…well, self-promoting. So, look at this cute picture of Baby Eli! 

Whew! Transition averted.

Michael Pollan uses a 7 word mantra to illustrate his position on healthy eating: Eat food.Not too much.Mostly plants. Beyond those 7 words, I look for minimally processed, mostly natural and as much organic as possible.

Healthy, Easy Lunches

Pairing healthy and easy can be a challenge. I have found the key to such a mix is preparation. If a recipe calls for 1 bell pepper then take the time to cut an extra 1 into strips to pack for a lunch or snack.

I, personally, prepare the night before. Find a routine that will be successful for you. You may prefer to pack several lunches in one evening, or you may have the where-with-all to process lunch packing in the early morning hours. Waiting until the morning is a recipe for lunch disaster for me. In my half-sleep, pre-caffeine stupor, I will grab what is most convenient, pre-packaged and non-fresh.

The key to healthy lunches is preparation, and the key to preparation is finding what works best for you.

This list of lunches have been geared towards 2-year-old Baby Eli. These lunches can be tailored to your particular family’s lifestyle, likes/dislikes and ages.

Monday:

whole wheat quesadilla, cherub tomatoes,lentils, sliced strawberries

A whole wheat tortilla is a great vehicle for cramming veggies, proteins and calcium rich cheeses. When introducing new veggies and foods, quesadillas can be a fun and non-threatening method.

Baby Eli’s favorite quesadilla combo is grilled chicken, bell pepper, tomato, shredded baby spinach and cheese (He doesn’t care what kind it is as long as it’s the color orange.).

We eat our quesadillas with a pinkie up. We’re just classy like that. 😉

Tuesday

grilled chicken (cubed), steamed broccoli and brown rice

This falls into the leftovers category. Leftovers are a spectacular and easy way to prepare lunch for the next day. While this particular lunch may seem boringly healthy, it has all of Eli’s favorites. If broccoli isn’t your thing, try a baked butternut squash  or some roasted veggies.

I like to make a large pot of brown rice that will last a few days. Brown rice can go as a side, under a stir fry or in a soup. It’s versatile and holds up well as leftovers.

 Wednesday

turkey “roll up”, cucumber slices, tomatoes and a banana

To freshen up the traditional sandwich, roll it into a whole wheat tortilla. Again, the tortilla is a great vehicle for veggies and trying new things. Serve the roll up with plain greek yogurt for dipping.

Thursday

Three-Bean Vegetable Chili

This chili is a great break from the bread, protein, side of veggie routine. Make it the night before for dinner, and pack it the next day for an easy, warm and filling lunch.

Friday

classic peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, bell pepper strips and berries

Nothing is more comforting that a peanut butter sandwich. All natural  and organic peanut/cashew/almond butters are becoming easier to find in main-stream markets. “Natural” is the new buzz word. Check the label to guarantee that you are getting a natural product that meets your standards.

Baby Eli is content with only peanut butter. If you want to sweeten yours up, then add a drizzle of honey and strawberry slices for added texture.

Strips of bell pepper are one of Eli’s and my favorite snacks. They are crispy, refreshing and fun to eat.

**Please note that peanuts are a high-risk allergy food. It is recommended that you do not introduce peanut products until the age of three.

When planning healthy lunches for your family:

  • look for balance between whole grains, proteins, calcium and produce.
  • Ask yourself, “Where can I cram more veggies?”
  • Be creative. Kids eat with their eyes. Use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes in sandwiches. Use produce to add color and interest to the plate.
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47 thoughts on “I Crave 5 Healthy, Easy Lunches for my Family.

  1. Raynifly says:

    Goodness, that smile Eli has on his face and those sparkling eyes are heavenly!

  2. RJ says:

    Love your little one’s curls!

  3. redeemtheart says:

    Thanks for the motivation…I really struggle with lunches because they are always an afterthought for me. I’m going to try some of your ideas!

    • mamacravings says:

      Absolutely!

      I tend to struggle with lunches too. If it wasn’t for the night before prep, we would eat peanut butter sandwiches every day. 😉

      • redeemtheart says:

        Yes, I need to start preparing the night before. Also, I was wondering, is Eli able to chew through the skins of bell peppers or do you peel them?

      • mamacravings says:

        He doesn’t have a problem with the skins of the bell pepper. I cut them into thin strips, but I don’t peel them.

  4. He is adorable! 🙂 So cute is he your only one 🙂 http://www.angelaluvnlife.com

    • mamacravings says:

      Thank you!

      Yes, Eli is our only kiddo (for the time being 😉 )

      • Does that mean you will be trying soon. I have 3 but we are thinking about trying for another girl. Anyway hopefully you will enjoy being a mom. 🙂 Do you work or stay at home.

      • mamacravings says:

        We will probably start thinking about another one in the next year or so.

        I grew up with 3 brothers and absolutely adored being 1 of 4. 🙂

        I work outside of the home. I am a caseworker and student advocate at a local junior high. I am also a teacher. My classes that I teach are online.

        I am loving being a mom. It’s the best adventure of my life 🙂

  5. tlbflowllc says:

    Great post! They all look like tasty, healthy meals.

    “Ask yourself, ‘Where can I cram more veggies?'” – that’s what my wife thinks with every meal. She’s a veggie-holic. Ha ha. But it’s good.

    Also, it’s good to see that you’re teaching your kid how to be classy. Pinkies up! 🙂

    • mamacravings says:

      Thank you!

      I learned the veggie cramming from my mama. Sometimes I wonder if there are any eggs in her omelets… Lol

      You know, being classy is important stuff. You never know when you’ll have quesadillas with the queen. 😉

  6. Holy cow, you are so organized! Great tips, must start doing more at night.

    • mamacravings says:

      The organization comes and goes. Lol!
      Taking the few minutes after dinner and before clean up has been my life-saver in consistenly creating heatlhy lunches.

      Thank you so much!

  7. boomiebol says:

    I am going to try this with my 2 year old twin girls…say a prayer for me that they try any of these :). Great post with great info

    • boomiebol says:

      Your boy is so cuuuuuuute

    • mamacravings says:

      Will do! Good luck!
      I try to follow the motto:
      It’s my job, as a mom, to put quality food in front of my kid. It’s his job to decide whether or not to eat it.

      When I introduce a new food to Eli, I try to surround it with comforting and favorite foods. He tends to be more adventuresome, if he feels he can “trust” the rest of the plate.

      Good luck! 🙂

  8. Sarah says:

    Fabulous post! Thank you so much for these healthy lunch ideas & tips! We are actually heading to the store right now, so I am going to pick up some of these ingredients:) I really struggle with varying up Ethan’s lunches. He eats a lot of sandwiches & ham lol. I bet he would LOVE the whole wheat tortillas! I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but does Eli eat the veggies raw (like the bell pepper strips) or do you cook them first?

    • mamacravings says:

      Thank you!

      Not a stupid question at all: It depends on the veggie. Bell pepper strips, carrots and tomatoes he will eat raw. I buy the prepackaged petite carrots instead of cutting the carrots up myself. Because I want the smallest bites possible.

      Eli does like all of the veggies cooked in a meal as well…except for carrots. He won’t eat cooked carrots. He says, “‘Dey’s yucky.”

      • Sarah says:

        Tim and I did the whole wheat quesadillas for dinner last night! They were awesome! 😀 I also bought some bell peppers & I’m going to see if Ethan will eat them raw. Poor kid is NOT a fan of veggies. But, then again…neither is his mama haha.

      • mamacravings says:

        Awesome! They’re yummy, huh? We do roll ups, soft tacos and quesadillas with them 🙂

        Awww! I just keep trying veggies with Eli. It can take up to 8 times before they develop a taste for them. I finally wore down Eli with sweet potatoes, but I started with them hidden. Now he likes them by themselves. 🙂

  9. the speech monster says:

    great post will remember that for when my little guy’s around that age!

  10. mrsbry126 says:

    Yummy! But here in the Philippines, mealtimes equate to rice! I can’t serve non-rice meals or else my husband would think I’m forcing him to go on a diet! We’re trying to use organic stuff too and prepare everything from scratch! No more stuff from the cans!

    • mamacravings says:

      I had a student from the Philippines. Her family ate rice and tofu at nearly meal. 🙂

      Organic isn’t always in the budget. So, I try to prioritize what will be organic. I start with animal products. I am firm believer in organic animal products, not just for the benefit of the consumer, but for the treatment of animals too.
      Then, I move on to soft/thin-skinned produce and so on.
      We limit our use of cans. If it’s not in season, we like to use frozen.

  11. Carolyn says:

    You can pack my lunch anytime. That all sounds good to me.

  12. Megan says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these! Most of these can be baby-fied for my little eater, and are something that I can enjoy right along with her. Simple and healthy rarely go hand in hand so this is great! Thanks 🙂

  13. What a great little eater! My little Eli is now gluten-free, dairy-free and has aversions to a great many textures. I’m finding that meal preparation is quite challenging, but I am determined to keep improving in this area. I love seeing your posts about your Eli… he is so cute!

    You won the giveaway of the Sakura tea!

    • mamacravings says:

      I was thinking about how non gluten-free ALL of these meals are. I’m very blessed that my Eli is a great eater and doesn’t have any allergies. One of my best friends has a little one that has a lot of allergies and sensitivities. It is really tough. She is a very creative mama. I should grab some recipes and products from her that she loves and feature them. 🙂

      I just emailed you! 🙂 I’m so excited!

  14. Oster's Mom says:

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing this. It gives me a lot of good ideas, as I’m always looking for creative and healthy meals for the little guy.

  15. Sophia says:

    Yum!! Easy and fun ideas!

  16. Oh Mylanta! First of all Eli is a doll! Love his curls! And I am so excited to see all of these amazing yummy dishes! Way to go! I will definitely have to try them! Have a great day!

  17. Laura Thoms says:

    Love reading blogs from people that obviously see so much joy in their life.

  18. […] my healthy lunches post, I touched on my definition of the word healthy. To me, food is healthy if it has purpose. For […]

  19. iansmommy says:

    I am keeping my sister-in-laws kids for the next couple of weeks while she is out of town. I will have to try the cookie cutter idea. I like that. It just sounds fun.

    • mamacravings says:

      That will be fun! Eli doesn’t ask for a “samich” any more he asks which shape sandwich he wants. Lol 🙂

      • iansmommy says:

        One of my biggest challenges is breakfast. Ian usually gets oatmeal with apple sause or a whole wheat waffle with apple sause and berries. Trying to feed him something healthy and make it to work on time is a challenge. Now I am trying to feed my niece (3) and nephew (8) and all they really want is cereal.

      • mamacravings says:

        Let me dig up a banana bread recipe that is yummy and healthy. It’s a hit with all ages. Could be served as muffins as well.

        What about breakfast quesadillas? whole wheat tortillas stuffed with scrambled eggs and loaded with veggies. It’s fun, portable and nutritious. The tortilla may be too much for Ian, but I bet the older kids would like it. 🙂

      • iansmommy says:

        Thanks. I have never made banana bread, but I would love to try it.

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