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Greek Salad Pitas
A home-packed lunch is healthier with fewer calories. Cheaper, too! / Renee Comet/Styling by Lisa Cherkasky/USA WEEKEND

As the summer winds down and our focus turns back to school, it’s the ideal time to consider just about everyone’s favorite subject: lunch. This year, don’t just pack your kid a lunchbox — pack one for yourself, too.

Whether you work in an office or face a day jammed with errands, bringing your midday meal will help you eat better in more ways than one. A homemade lunch probably will be healthier, with fewer calories and less saturated fat and sodium, and have higher-quality ingredients than anything you could order in or pick up.

Though a basic sandwich will do, go for an upgrade with these easy tweaks:

1. Choose the best bread.

Opt for a whole-grain wrap, tortilla or pita pocket. You’ll get antioxidants and fiber from the grain, and you can stuff the breads with veggies for more flavor, color and nutrients.

2. Spread smart.

Gobs of mayo or dressing can add unhealthful fat to an otherwise smart sandwich. Go for big flavor with fewer calories with spreads like mustard, pesto or olive tapenade (like the one here). For creaminess, slather on ripe avocado.

3. Rev up the vegetables.

Lettuce and tomato are fine, but why not explore greens like arugula and spinach, or cabbage along with sliced cucumbers and grated carrots? Leftover cooked vegetables, like green beans or asparagus, are delicious in a sandwich.

This pita sandwich is an example of how deliciously it can all come together. Kids and adults will give lunch high marks.

Zesty Greek Salad Pitas with Olive-Garlic Tapenade

• 1 English cucumber (about 12 ounces), seeded and cut into chunks
• 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
• 4 medium radishes, cut into chunks
• 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
• 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 Tb. red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp. dried oregano
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4 whole-wheat pita pockets (about 6 inches in diameter)
• ¼ cup Olive-Garlic Tapenade (recipe below)
• 3 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves

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In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and feta. Add the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, some pepper and toss to combine. Pack the salad mixture in a container; stuff the pita right before eating. Slice each pita open to form a pocket. Spread the inside with 1 Tb. of the tapenade, then add ¾ cup of spinach and 1 cup of the Greek salad mix.

Yield: 4 servings; Per serving: 380 calories, 45g carbohydrates, 12g protein, 19g fat (5g saturated), 8g fiber, 15mg cholesterol, 730mg sodium

Olive-Garlic Tapenade

• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
• 1 Tb. red wine vinegar
• 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Put the garlic cloves in the small bowl of a food processor and process until chopped. Add the olives, vinegar and olive oil and process until spreadable but not completely smooth.

Yield: 12 servings;Per serving (1 Tb.): 60 calories, 1g carbohydrates, 0g protein, 6g fat (.5g saturated), 0g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.