Fresh and healthy lunch box meal ideas

They’ve got the latest backpack, spotless sneakers, new notebooks and a handful of No. 2 pencils. Now some fresh ideas for the lunch box!

If you’re the lunch packer, there may be times when your kids ask for the same old, same old, day in and day out. Your job is figuring out how to slip in some healthy new items that they will like, without straying too far from the norm. (“What is this? Some sort of vegetable cupcake?”)

Longhorn Caviar

This Texas “caviar” contains black-eyed peas rather than fish eggs. Make it a day ahead so the flavors will mellow.

Longhorn Caviar

1½ cups chopped, seeded tomato
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons canned, chopped green chiles
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can (15.8 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained
Jalapeño slices (optional)
Cilantro springs (optional)

Healthy Fruit Smoothie Recipes

Three smoothie recipes for a delicious breakfast or afternoon snack. All recipes are courtesy of Norton Healthcare’s N Good Health program.

Peanut Butter-Banana
½ cup banana, diced
3 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup skim milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
Option: Freeze the banana before making the smoothie

Bean, Tomato and Orzo Salad Recipe

Tomatoes are one of those super versatile foods that can be used in many recipes in many ways, from a salad topping to an ingredient in soups and sauces. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and shown to be protective against cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic tumors. Given tomatoes’ nutritional value, they are often recommended by dietitians and nutritionists for cholesterol-controlling and weight-loss diet programs.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Everyone loves chips and salsa; it’s a classic party food and great for backyard barbecues. A fresh tomato salsa is a great topping for chips, tacos or salad without all the unneeded preservatives and processed-to-mush veggies that jar salsa brings to the table.

Did you know that while tomatoes are treated as a vegetable, they are actually a fruit? Tomatoes are an excellent source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamin C and potassium. The antioxidants in tomatoes are found to be protective against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic cancers.

Lively Salsa Meatballs

When you’re preparing healthy meals seven nights a week, it can be easy to get stuck in a food rut and serve the same meal over and over. At my house, we struggle with coming up with interesting meal ideas, and I feel like I am always asking myself, “What can we have that’s different?” I’m also pretty good about buying grocery items, especially meat, when they are on sale and freezing them for use later. The problem with this shopping habit is that I end up with items, such as ground turkey, that we like, but then we end up having the same old things — turkey burgers, pasta with meat sauce or meatloaf. But I recently found this great meatball recipe to help change things up a bit. It’s perfect to serve with your family’s favorite vegetables on the side.

Fruit Pizza

I love dessert. If I had to choose between ordering an appetizer at a restaurant or waiting until the end of the meal for dessert, I will always choose dessert. My sweet tooth can pose some problems related to the amount of sugar, fat and calories I am consuming. Luckily, during a summer barbeque one year, I discovered the wonder and deliciousness that is the fruit pizza. One slice is usually enough for me, given the sweetness of the sugar-cookie crust, but the fruit topping is fresh and delicious and always a better choice than a piece of leftover chocolate cake. Plus, when you make your own you can choose your favorite fruits, and it’s usually a hit at parties because you brought the “healthy” dessert. Enjoy!