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.
Follow the food pyramid
Ideally, lunch should include 2 to 3 servings of fruits and/or vegetables; one serving of low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese; one or two servings from the grain group; one serving from the meat group; and one small treat for added pleasure.
Include at least three of the five food groups
A sandwich is a good way to include many of the food groups. Add some fruit and low-fat milk as the beverage, and you're well on your way to a balanced meal.
Involve the kids
They are more likely to eat what is in their lunch if they helped plan and prepare it.
Fight food boredom
Some younger children may be satisfied with, or even insist on, having the same thing every day. If they get bored, use different kinds of breads, such as pita pockets, tortilla wraps or English muffins. Try cutting sandwiches, fruits and vegetables into different shapes to vary the look and texture. Make kabobs with fruits and vegetables on a straw and include low-fat yogurt or salad dressing as a dip.
Pack dry cereal or granola
These can be mixed into yogurt, or eaten plain. Opt for pretzels or rice cakes instead of potato chips.
Pack lunches the night before
If morning is hectic at your house, try packing lunches while you're clearing away supper. When preparing fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner, place some in containers for use in lunches the next day.
Buy ready-to-eat items
For convenience, many products also can be purchased in individual-sized serving packages. Or if you prefer, buy foods in larger quantities and repackage them in small plastic containers, store properly, then grab and use as needed. Avoid products high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and sugars.
Allow for special treats
Pack cookies or a snack bar, or include a special note from mom or dad.
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.