A Nutritious Lunchbox
"Brown bag" lunches are an inexpensive and healthy alternative to the company cafeteria or the restaurant down the street. Here are some tips to ensure that you and your family eat healthy every day, whether at work, at school or at play.
Keep cold foods cold
Use an ice pack and an insulated bag. Use a frozen juice box to keep other foods cold. By lunchtime, it should be thawed enough to drink.
Keep hot foods hot
Use an insulated unbreakable container that will keep foods above 140 degrees until lunchtime. Preheat the container with hot water before placing food in it.
One of the biggest barriers to packing a lunch is time. You may feel rushed in the morning and unable to prepare a well-rounded lunch. A nutritionally adequate lunch should include some protein, a grain at least one fruit and vegetable, a dairy product and an optional small sweet or snack. Spend time on the weekends prepping colorful fruits and vegetables. Thirty minutes on a Sunday evening will save a lot of stress in the morning throughout the week.
Include Your Child
When kids help plan their lunches they are more likely to eat them. If your child eats school lunch go over the menu with them and circle the items he or she enjoys. If you child eats a lunch brought from home, create a checklist or a table of agreed upon foods they like in each food group and make a plan for the week.
Make it Appealing
Make lunches fun by using a colorful reusable lunch box. Bento-style containers can also be used creatively because they have different compartments. Colorful muffin tins are a great way to separate food items and save on plastic sandwich bags. Children can also be overwhelmed by large pieces of food. Be sure to slice fruits and vegetables into small, manageable bite-sized pieces like matchsticks. Sandwiches can be cut into triangles or a fun shape using a cookie cutter.
Leftovers from last night's dinner can be a great option to pack for lunch. Get creative and reinvent leftovers into something different. For example, leftover chicken fajitas can be made into chicken quesadilla's the next day and leftover roast, chicken or turkey can be used in a sandwich. This is a great way to reduce food wasts in your home and can save time in the morning.
Include a Treat
It's inevitable. Your child will ask for something sweet to eat with their meal. Narrow down the options and give your child two items to choose from. Rethink what and how much you give them by reading nutrition labels and monitoring serving size. Even if they eat one or two small cookies first, they will still be hungry for the rest of lunch.
10 Tips for Nutritious Brown Bag Lunches
- Add zucchini, carrot or sweet pepper strips to your lunch bag
- Try peanut butter and banana sandwiches
- Use spinach, tomatoes and sprouts in sandwiches instead of lettuce
- Marinate a variety of sliced vegetables with low-fat Italian dressing and use with turkey in a pita pocket
- Add slices of fruit to your sandwich instead of the usual
- Go meat-free in sandwiches and make it a veggie sandwich instead
- Include one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable in all brown bag lunches
- Pack a low-fat pasta salad or vegetable salad with low-fat dressing
- Pack leftovers from your healthy dinner
- Make sandwiches on bagels, tortillas, English muffins, or pita pockets. Load up with veggies.