Healthy Lunch Ideas on the Cheap

Are you looking for some healthy lunch ideas?

Are you afraid that eating healthy will stress your budget?

Good news!

There is a common misconception that eating healthy is expensive. In reality, healthy lunch substitutions are a great way to actually save money.

Plus, these are easy lunch ideas - grab-and-go created by nature.

Here we offer 6 healthy substitutions for brown-bag favorites. Whether you're packing a lunch for the office or for school, your wallet and waistline (and vital organs) will benefit...

1. Apple vs. Granola Bar

    Both the apple and granola bar brag about their fiber content, but only apples act as mini-muti-vitamins, too. Apples naturally contain most of the essential vitamins and minerals for a great afternoon energy boost. Their sugar content is tempered by fiber, making a late afternoon sugar crash less likely. To sweeten the deal: you save an average of $0.11 per serving on the healthy lunch option. If you make this switch for one person's lunch over nine months, you will save $19.80. Take the family apple picking this fall, and save even more.

    Extra Tip: If your child (or you) prefer sliced and/or peeled apples, put some ground cinnamon in the bag with the apples, and shake. The result is a delicious mess that hides any browning and makes even the biggest health food skeptic a fan. Just don't forget a napkin!

2. Mixed Nuts vs. Goldfish

    A vibrantly colored fish cracker can't hold a nutritional candle to Mother Nature's snack. Nuts feature protein, good fats, and lots of minerals; while goldfish-shaped crackers feature, well, bright colors and cute smiles. All different kinds of nuts have been shown improve cholesterol, offering yet another reason to pack a handful in every lunch. And if you're looking for more incentive, consider you'll even save $0.02 per serving on average, which adds up to $3.60 over the school year. The savings may not be impressive, but the nutritional advantages are.

3. Banana vs. Fruit Snacks

    Honestly, if you're looking for vitamins and fruity flavor, why not go to the source? Fruit snacks may advertise their added (aka: synthetic) vitamins, but bananas need no such tampering. Instead, a box of bananas would read: Only natural vitamins allowed. And, your wallet will really thank you... a mere $0.31 per banana versus a $0.50 snack will add up to $34.20 during the school year.

4. Baby Carrots vs. Chips

    You're not missing anything other than salt if you trade in your chip crunch for the crunch of baby carrots. This trade-in will have huge health benefits since you're trading in food fried in oils for a plant-based food, which science has shown will lower the risk of heart disease. And again, the nutritional benefits far outweigh the financial advantage, but just to prove our point that healthy lunch options are no more expensive, you can expect to save at least $0.02 per serving. Making this substitution to one person's lunch for the duration of the school year saves $3.60.

5. Real Popcorn vs. 100-calorie Microwave Popcorn Bags

    Yes, this option requires that a batch of popcorn be prepared the old-fashioned way once or twice each week, and scooped into baggies. But oh, the chemicals you will avoid and the savings you will enjoy! Less convenient? Maybe... but I never enjoyed standing idle for 3-5 minutes waiting for the sound of popping to slow. Healthier and Cheaper? Absolutely! Savings for one person over 9 months: $113.40!

6. Water vs. Soda

    Yes, I'm from Virginia and I say soda. Pop, soft drinks, coke, even juice boxes... whatever your beverage choice... none is healthier or cheaper than water. An upfront investment in a BPA-free container will be nominal compared to a year of savings. Figure $0.31 each lunch, and one person saves $55.80 during the school year.

If one person used all of these healthy lunch ideas for lunches and snacks, the savings would be $230.40 over 9 months.

More realistically, using 2 of these healthy lunch ideas each day (equally distributing among the 5 healthy lunch ideas), and always packing water would save a family of four $502.56 during the school year.

Healthy is not more expensive.

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