You don't need to tally every calorie each person in your family eats, but emphasizing low-calorie meals can reduce your family's risk of becoming overweight or obese. Still, not all low-calorie foods are nutritious, so don't just grab for lean frozen meals in an attempt to keep your family healthy. The best way to prepare a low-calorie lunch is to stick with classic meal choices and skim off unnecessary calories from fat.
Peanut Butter Fruit Wrap
Sweet doesn't have to equal highly caloric. In some cases, sweetness can make a kid-popular low-calorie lunch choice. Top whole-wheat tortillas with all-natural peanut butter, ground cinnamon, sliced bananas or apple slices and a favorite dried fruit such as raisins or dried apricots. If you're taking lunch on-the-go, roll up each wrap into aluminum foil so the filling won't fall out. If you use about 2 tbsp. of peanut butter on each 9-inch wrap, this meal shouldn't tack on more than about 450 calories, according to "Healthy Appetite" host Ellie Krieger in a "USA Today" article.
Pizza is a common family favorite, but it isn't always the healthiest. However, you can make it a low-calorie lunch treat if you use whole-wheat crust, low-fat mozzarella and mixed veggies instead of pepperoni. Start with a ready-to-bake 10-inch crust and top it with pizza sauce, about 1 cup of mozzarella and toppings such as fresh tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, bell peppers and spinach. If meat is a must, use turkey pepperoni instead of the variety made from pork and beef. Pop the pie into a preheated 400 F oven and wait about 15 minutes for the mozzarella to melt and bubble. If you cut the pizza into six pieces and each eat two slices, the lunch would be about 395 calories per person, according to KidsHealth from Nemours.
If you're looking for a simple and low-calorie meal to make on a warm summer day, all you need is a large bowl, some romaine lettuce and your favorite taco accoutrements. Some low-calorie options include fresh tomato salsa, canned black or pinto beans, long grain brown rice, drained canned corn, diced green peppers, crumbled tortilla chips and a couple tablespoons of a low-fat Mexican three-cheese blend. Each 1 1/2-cup serving of this salad shouldn't be more than about 400 calories. Drizzle on a creamy fat-free salad dressing instead of sour cream to keep the calories low.
Grilled Ham and Turkey Sandwiches
As long as you're careful when decorating your bread, having a good old-fashioned sandwich for lunch doesn't have to be a caloric disaster. Mix together some creamy fat-free or light salad dressing and Dijon mustard and spread it on whole wheat bread. Prepare each sandwich with a slice of low-sodium deli ham, a slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese and two slices of tomato before popping each sandwich on a cooking pan lightly greased with olive oil. Lightly brown each side and wait for the cheese to melt slightly. One sandwich shouldn't be more than about 237 calories, according to MyRecipes. For extra nourishment, have a side of baby carrots dipped in light ranch dressing.
- American Heart Association: Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
- "USA Today": Black Bean Taco Salad
- "USA Today": Peanut Butter and Fruit Wrap; Ellie Krieger; 2010
- MyRecipes: Grilled Turkey and Ham Sandwich
- KidsHealth From Nemours: Whole-wheat Pizza
- EatingWell: Vegetarian Taco Salad; Nancy Baggett
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images