By Angela Shelf Medearis

Lunch for Dinner, Dinner for Lunch

A nutritious lunch does not have to be boring or cost you a fortune. Making small changes — like planning a lunch with ingredients that also work well for dinner meals — can save you money. Remember, too, that well-nourished children have a greater chance of success at school because they have the fuel and the energy they need to play and learn. Packing your child’s lunch lets you know exactly what he or she is eating.

Follow these tips and not only will you save money, you’ll also pack a nutritious lunch that your child will enjoy.

1. Practice good nutrition yourself. Children learn by association — you need to be a role model. Talk with them about the benefits of healthy eating.

2. Make your own. Look beyond lunchmeat. Slice your own meat or grill chicken breast and cut it into strips or cubes. Avoid high-priced prepackaged lunches.

3. Send in leftovers. Invest in a good insulated food container to keep food warm. Homemade soup is always a good option.

4. Buy what’s on sale each week and use coupons, then work it into a menu. Use fruits and vegetables that are in season.

5. Buy store brands and compare unit prices.

6. Look high and low — bargains are usually on the top or bottom shelves, not at eye level.

7. Plan ahead and have a list when you go to the store. The more time you spend in a store, the more money you spend.

8. A healthy lunch should contain foods from each of the five food groups: Carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Choose whole-grain products like bread, tortillas, pita bread, bagels or whole-grain crackers. These are more nutritious, have more fiber, vitamins and minerals, and keep blood sugar steady for optimal learning.

9. Include the kids in the process and give them choices. Take them along when grocery shopping. Let them pick one new fruit or vegetable each week to try. Let them help prepare dinner and use the leftovers to pack their lunch.


My recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Two Ways doubles as a delicious dinner and a nutritious lunch! It makes six servings: four for dinner and four lunches.

2 cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon packed fresh mint or basil
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped, or 1/2 tablespoon dried dill
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds chicken-breast tenders
1 English (seedless) cucumber
2 large ripe tomatoes
4 whole-wheat pitas

1. In small bowl, combine yogurt, mint, dill, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/3 of the garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Let stand 15 minutes. Place half of the mixture in a covered container and refrigerate to use for lunch.
2. Use a pie plate to combine 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1/3 of the garlic. Add chicken, turning to coat. Let stand.
3. Heat a grill pan on medium-high. Grill chicken 10 to 12 minutes or until no longer pink in center, turning once.
4. Meanwhile, cut cucumber and tomato into chunks; toss, in large bowl, with the remaining 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper, and remaining lemon juice, oil and garlic.
5. For dinner: Divide the chicken and salad evenly. Place half of the ingredients in sealed containers. Transfer remaining chicken to serving plates and serve the cucumber mixture and the remaining yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with the dill. Prepare a side of orzo or couscous, if desired.
6. For lunch: Grill pitas until toasted, turning once. Fill the pitas with the remaining chicken, yogurt sauce, cucumber mixture and dill. Place in a re-usable container in a lunchbox, along with fruit.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis


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