Healthy lunches for less

July 23, 2009 4:29:36 PM PDT
This time of the year, many parents are eating on the go with their children. If you're ordering fast food, you may think you're getting a bargain, but you can actually make a lunch in no time that's much healthier. With all of the activities kids have right now, lunch time often means picking up fast food.

But those meal deals don't come cheap and experts say they're contributing to childhood obesity.

A McDonald's Mighty Kids Meal costs about $4.00.

At 600 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 780 milligrams of sodium, that little box contains roughly half the salt and almost all the fat an 8-year-old should consume for the whole day.

However, for the same price or even less, you can throw something together at home that is far healthier in about the same time as it took you to get through the drive thru.

Kids love food they can eat with their hands, so quesadillas and burritos are kid-friendly for either option.

You'll need tortillas, pico de gallo, romaine lettuce, monterey jack cheese and black beans.

"If you're going to do the burrito, it's really just wrap and roll. And if you're going to do the quesadillas, you're layering the tortillas with the ingredients in the middle and either putting them on the griddle or sticking them in the oven," said Lindsay Mucha, Whole Foods Manager.

This meal takes a minute to make and costs less than $2 per person.

By using beans as a source of protein, you can save a lot of money while cutting fat and adding fiber.

"Meat and seafood tends to be what we spend the most money on," said Mucha.

Want to see a lower grocery bill? Make just one or two of your meals each week meatless.

Our next wallet and kid-friendly meal is a whole wheat pizza. For this one, we're using whole wheat Naan, a popular Indian bread, but you could also use a pita.

Add inexpensive store-brand tomato paste, mozzarella cheese, herbs and cherry tomatoes, and you're done.

"I love using cherry tomatoes. Right now they're in season so they're both fresh and inexpensive," said Mucha.

The price on this lunch? Just $3.36 per person.

And you can lower that price even more by using herbs from your own garden.

Here are the Healthy Lunch for Less recipes from Whole Foods (note: some ingredients are optional):

Italian Tuna Sandwiches - (recipe can double as tuna and crackers as well)

  • Tuna
  • Red onion
  • Fresh parsley
  • Dried oregano
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (assuming it is a home staple when price per serving is calculated)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rustic Italian Bread

Nutritional information:260 calories (50 from fat), 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 470mg sodium

Club Sandwich Kabobs - (can be converted to a Club Sandwich and/or a Club Salad)

  • Rustic Italian Bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Deli turkey
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mozzarella cut into cubes
  • Kosher dill or sweet pickles (assumed it is a home staple when price per serving is calculated)

Nutritional information: 253.5 calories (180 from fat), 14g total fat, 630mg sodium

Naan Pizza (can be converted to Hummus Veggie Naan sandwich)

  • Whole wheat Naan bread, halved
  • Hummus
  • Baby spinach
  • Assorted raw vegetables such as halved cherry tomatoes. For sandwich: use carrots and cucumber slices

Nutritional Information: 210 calories (70 from fat), 8g total fat, 400mg sodium

Burritos (can be converted to quesadillas)

  • Can of black beans
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Pico de gallo
  • Sour cream
  • Tortillas

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