The new year is a time when we resolve to make life changes. Eating healthier is often at the top of the list, however, packing lunches that are well-balanced and cost-effective for kids can take a backseat. Kids can be fickle when it comes to lunchtime, especially at school with limited time and social distractions. Making sure to pack a lunch that gives them fuel for the day and provides colorful and interesting foods that they will actually eat doesn’t have to be difficult. A health expert weighs in on the perfect pairings for your child’s lunchbox, and Sunfare Personalized Meals that are made fresh and delivered daily provides the convenience of healthy, prepared food for parents who are on the go.

Resolutions falling by the wayside when it comes to lunch prep?

“Parents often find themselves at a loss of what to prepare for their child’s lunch, and pretty soon, kids are singing the soggy-sandwich blues and protesting those packed-in-a-hurry lunches,” says Jaime Parker, Wellness Council of Arizona Health Coach for Basha’s.

Basha’s, Arizona’s hometown supermarket, knows the struggle parents face in coming up with lunch ideas, but with some simple planning and a few creative ideas, lunches can be healthy, fresh, affordable, and most importantly, fun.

Here are some helpful tips to stay on track:  

1. Plan ahead for the week.

Turn Sunday into a lunch-planning day for the week rather than be in a scramble every morning wondering what to pack for the day. Use divided bento-style lunch containers to pre-package lunches for the week, making them go from the fridge to a lunch bag in a snap. Prepare bulk foods to add variety, such as rice, quinoa, grilled chicken, sweet potatoes and beans. 

2. Involve the kids. Invite children to help shop for groceries and teach them the importance of healthy eating. Encourage them to choose produce of a certain color; it’s a great lesson in color identification, too! When it’s time to pack lunches for the week, bring out healthy fruits and veggies, and invite them to be part of the assembly process, choosing healthy foods they’d like to eat. When you allow your children to participate in the food prep process, making it fun and encouraging them along the way, the finished product is something they’re proud of and more willing to eat. 

3. Ditch the PB&J. Variety is key. Go beyond a typical PB&J sandwich by creating a healthier Lunchable with nitrate-free lunchmeat, string cheese, raw veggies, seeded crackers and mustard. Assemble a smorgasbord of lighter snacks, including hard-boiled eggs, dried fruit and air-popped popcorn. Change up your sandwich by wrapping it with gluten-free or mini-corn tortillas (kid-size!) or large leaf lettuce and fill it with hummus as the main source of protein. Because there are so many more known peanut allergies (and many schools have banned them), make a SunButter (sunflower seeds with a texture very similar to peanut butter) or almond butter sandwich with sliced peaches and a drizzle of honey.

4. Get veggies to go undercover. Veggies often come back home as the lone occupants of a child’s lunchbox. Put these vitamin-packed powerhouses back in demand by asking kids to choose from two or three options. Put excitement back into vegetables by using cute cutters and stringing carrots, peppers and cucumbers onto a skewer. Jam-pack veggies into sauces that can be used for pizza or pasta. 

5. Stretch your budget. Did you know that by packing your lunch you’ll save anywhere from $1,500 to $2,400 per year? Healthy, fun lunches don’t need to cost a fortune. Shop the weekly ad; use your grocery loyalty card; and take advantage of Basha’s Personal Thank You program, which customizes special deals for you based on what you purchase regularly. Buy in bulk when you can for healthy and delicious items, including rice, nuts and dried fruit. Get creative with old standbys such as tuna, which can be doctored up with celery, relish, crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and more. Take advantage of eggs; from packing a hard-boiled snack to an omelet, eggs are versatile, travel well and are healthy.

Eating nutritious meals shouldn’t take a lot of effort or put a dent in your pocketbook. With a little planning, you and your kids can take the first step in establishing healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Looking for a solution to lunch packing that truly takes the guesswork out and assists parents who may be dealing with food allergies? Look no further than Sunfare.

“Our kids meals were actually developed in conjunction with our new Dinners Program. While we designed Dinners with the whole family in mind, we also felt that having another option for kids would be a nice choice to give our clients,” says CEO and Co-Founder John Stewart. “And while it took quite a bit of research and testing to put our kids meals into production, we’re getting great feedback; parents are finding that not only do they provide an appealing dinner for their children, but they fill in perfectly as a lunch alternative, too.”

Sunfare currently offers 16 different kids meals that provide a range of different kid-friendly choices; classics like chicken tenders, hot dogs and sliders are available, but for the less picky palate, there is a delicious grilled salmon, a chicken and broccoli stir-fry, turkey meatloaf and even a deli lunch box. Each meal comes in a microwavable five-compartment container with a main protein and four sides; these include a fresh fruit, a seasonal vegetable, a sauce of some kind and a small serving of something sweet. It’s a nicely consolidated presentation that’s quick and easy for parents to prepare and simple for kids to eat.   

Based on client requests, Sunfare is in the process of allowing side alternatives per meal. For example, if the mac and cheese comes with green beans on the side, but your child isn’t a fan of green beans, you’ll be able to easily replace them from a roster of alternate vegetable choices. In this way, people can really customize for their kids based on likes and dislikes.  

While the Dinners Program is the only program to currently allow kids meal options, they will be available as an independent item in early 2019, so lunch packing can be efficient, effortless and well balanced. Parents can rest easy knowing Sunfare has all nutritional needs in mind, along with great flavors kids will love.

Kids, Grilled Salmon

Grilled Atlantic salmon served with organic brown rice, steamed green beans, summersweet watermelon and organic jelly beans; a fresh lemon wedge comes on the side.

Kids, Chicken Tenders

Gluten-free, all-natural chicken tenders fried in sesame oil until golden brown and served with fresh strawberries, broccoli florets, organic jelly beans and a side of house-made ranch dipping sauce.

Kids, Deli Lunchbox

All-natural deli ham, all-natural oven-roasted turkey and sliced cheddar cheese served with organic crackers, steamed broccoli, fresh-cut pineapple and organic jelly beans.