‘Tis the season: How to add healthy holiday flavors to your child’s lunch

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means holiday season is in full swing and soon, the kids will be home for winter break. It can be tough for little ones to get through the last few weeks of school before the break. Help them have fun at school and celebrate the season by adding one of these festive, flavorful and healthy treats to their lunch bag.

Everyday choice: Applesauce

Festive choice:

This hearty dish is packed with fiber and calcium, and has homey warmth that’s ideal for a chilly winter afternoon. Best of all, it requires minimal prep and the leftovers make a great after-school snack!

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):

  • 1 ½ – 2 cups prepared or homemade applesauce
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

What to do:

  • Send your child to school with 1 cup applesauce.
  • If possible, have them warm the applesauce, with the assistance of a lunch aid, in the cafeteria.
  • Once heated, top with cubed cheddar cheese and toasted almonds.

Everyday choice: Turkey sandwich

Festive choice:

Ideal for using up Thanksgiving leftovers, this tasty delight perfectly brings to life the flavors of Turkey Day and will give your child a healthy dose of antioxidants (thanks to the cranberries) and lean protein (thanks to the turkey). It’s a great weekend lunch option too – just toss it in the grill pan to make a toasty Panini.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 slices cooked lean turkey meat
  • 1 slice provolone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cranberry sauce (for the healthiest sandwich, try a sugar-free cranberry sauce)
  • 1 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread

What to do:

  • Chop red onion very fine and mix with cranberry sauce.
  • Spread thin layer of mayonnaise on one slice of bread. Spread cranberry-onion mix on the other slice.
  • Layer turkey slices and cheese on one of the bread slices. Top with the second slice.

Other easy ways to incorporate seasonal flavors into your child’s lunch include:

  • Cinnamon is the quintessential holiday flavor and it’s known to stabilize blood sugar and boost cognitive function. Add a dash to low-fat vanilla yogurt – a perfect sweet treat to round out your child’s bagged lunch.
  • Consider replacing your child’s side of crackers or chips with a heart-healthy, seasonal favorite – toasted pumpkin seeds.

As a Healthy Blue Xtras member, you can save money on many of the ingredients noted above at retailers across Michigan.

For more ideas on healthy lunches and seasonal flavors, explore AHealthierMichigan.org.

Photo credits: ClosetCooking.com

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