Affordable and healthy school lunches

Economical, healthy lunches
Average cost per lunch = $2.75

Sample lunches:

Cheese quesadilla with salsa
¼ cup garbanzo beans
1 cup red grapes
12 oz power c vitaminwater
love note from mom (priceless)
Total cost: $3.14

Soynut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with slices of banana
1 cup of carrot sticks and bell pepper strips
1 small home-made chocolate chip cookie
Re-usable container of 1% milk
Total cost: $2.42

Mini bagel turkey sandwich with cheese, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes
Home-made trail mix of dried cranberries, pretzels, peanuts
2 plums
Re-usable container of smartwater
Total cost: $2.69


  • Learn to become a bargain hunter. You can get some great deals at the supermarkets by purchasing sale items, becoming a "card member", buying generic and shopping at the discount big box stores. Look at the per ounce price breakdown listed on the shelf, ie., how much the product costs per ounce and compare.

  • Buy mostly conventional (non-organic) and less expensive groceries, and buy only the highest pesticide-containing foods organic. Buying organic can be expensive. By purchasing the 12 highest-containing pesticide produce items organic, you will not only cut your grocery bill-you'll also cut your pesticide exposure by up to 90%. So purchase the bulk of your groceries conventional and limit organic to the following 12 produce items: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

  • Do your own slicing and dicing. Pre-cut, pre-sliced, pre-washed and prepared items like cheeses and lettuce mixes usually cost more because you are paying for someone else to do your prep work. Cut costs by washing your own lettuce and spinach, cut your own fruits and veggies, slice and shred your own cheese, make your own trail mixes, etc. Carve out a few minutes daily to do your own preparation. And get the kids to help!

  • Buy locally and eat seasonally as much as possible. Don't get stuck with paying for the added costs of shipping and handling, not to mention the carbon fuels expended that hurt our environment. The nutritional content will also be at its peak because local produce is usually picked just days before you purchase. Shop at farmer's markets, read food labels to find out where your food is from, or ask your grocer.

    The Local Foods Wheel ( lists Bay Area-grown foods both by season as well as year-around.

    More Tips:

  • Create a colorful, whole foods lunch, that includes complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy) for energy, and protein (dairy, meats, nuts, beans) to keep up mental alertness and acuity.

  • Include a hydrating beverage (vitaminwater, smartwater, milk), as even the slightest dehydration can contribute to tiredness, irritability, headaches, and low-energy levels. Finally there is a "school approved" beverage, the 12 oz vitaminwater. It is a great tasting electrolyte enhanced water that is packed with a range of nutrients. Power-C has 100% DV for vitamin C, and is sweetened with real sugar and the natural colors and flavors come from real fruits and vegetables.

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle: Using reusable containers, cloth napkins, utensils to help cut down on waste. The initial investment of a re-usable cloth bag and re-usable plastic containers pays off not only for the pocket book, but also the environment. Make sure there is a recycling and composting program at your child's school and at home. Be the role model for your family by using re-usable items when packing your lunches, recycling items such as water bottles, paper bags, and plastic utensils, and composting food scraps and paper products.

    About Alison Eastwood RD, Dietitian: Alison spent the first 10 years of her career in clinical nutrition developing a solid foundation in the fundamentals. She was a clinical dietitian from 1997 to 2004 at the University of California, San Francisco specializing in heart disease reversal and breast cancer. She also worked with famed cardiac and complementary medicine researcher Dr. Dean Ornish for eight years delivering nutrition lectures, working with chefs to implement low-fat vegetarian menus, and providing one-on-one patient counseling. Alison rounded out this clinical experience with her role as director of nutrition services for the prestigious San Francisco Bay Club where she offered nutrition counseling and classes on wellness, fitness, and weight loss.

    Beyond serving as an advisor and clinician, Alison is a seasoned and enthusiastic cook, something she enjoys doing personally and professionally. She has developed and tested dozens of recipes while building the food desk for, and was the nutrition contributor for the best selling cookbook Super Smoothies (Chronicle Books 2000).

    Alison's performance and professionalism earned her the American Dietetic Association's Young Dietitian of the Year award in 2000 and continues to foster her positive reputation in the field.

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