Planning Back-to-School/Work Lunches
You can make healthy eating easier by planning what you eat. It’s easy to get stuck in the peanut-butter-sandwich rut, but if you have a plan, you will make healthier choices, reduce stress and save money. Having a plan for both lunches and dinners and writing a grocery list for the meals you plan will save you time in the grocery store too.
How to Plan your Meals
There is no right or wrong way, it really depends on what will work for you. Think about who will be eating the meals, how many meals you need to plan for, how many days a week you will shop and how much time you have to prepare. Some helpful things to get you started:
- Brainstorm a master list of the meals you already know how to make. Do one for lunches and another for dinners. Keep this list on your computer and add to it.
- Have a few recipes you would like to try on-hand so you can list the ingredient on your grocery list.
- Ask family members for input
- Set some time aside to plan.
- Keep old meal plans to recycle in the future.
- Post a grocery list on the fridge for others to add to.
If you are making lunches for your child, encourage them participate and help pack it. Food is less likely to go uneaten if kids feel they have had a say in the preparation. Include a variety of foods. Emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains, choose lower fat dairy products and lean meats, and limit salt and caffeine (such as in energy drinks and soft drinks). Here are some healthy packed lunch suggestions for kids:
- whole wheat sandwich with turkey or chicken, yogurt, cereal bar, fruit, baby carrots, water
- crackers and cheese, celery with peanut butter and raisins, water
- hard-boiled egg (peeled), grapes, liquid yogurt drink and 2 oatmeal cookies
- bran muffin, raw vegetables with hummus, trail mix and orange slices
- vegetables and cheese sticks wrapped in lean meat slices, bag of crackers, strawberries, water
- instead of jam, try some alternatives with a peanut butter sandwich – banana slices or chips, grated carrot, raisins, sunflower seeds, crushed pineapple, chopped celery
Whether you are working from home or going to the office, it’s still a good idea to pack a lunch. If you have a plan for lunch and assemble it the night before or that morning before work, then when the time to eat comes you are not caught off guard by cravings and instead can sit down and start eating.
Packed Lunch Ideas for Teens and Adults
- Buddha Bowl: Assemble chopped greens, a cooked grain such as quinoa or brown rice, leftover roasted vegetables from dinner the night before such as sweet potato, brussels sprouts or roasted cauliflower. Add a source of protein or two such as edamame or chickpeas, chicken or salmon. Top with fresh chopped vegetables such as cherry tomatoes or bell peppers, avocado and your favorite dressing.
- Soup or Chili: Leftover Chili, whole grain roll, side salad
- Wrap: Leftover Greek salad and chicken chopped up and put in a whole grain wrap with tzatziki.
- Meal in one salad with greens, protein such as chicken, salmon, beans or cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, nuts and cheese. Add a variety of vegetables or fruit such as tomatoes, peppers, onion, cucumber, grapes or orange slices.
Beverages should be a nutritious addition to lunch. Water is always the best hydrator, but if your child prefers juice, make it 100% real fruit juice. Choose low fat milk or even 2% chocolate milk as a treat. Try freezing the water and juices to keep the lunches cold until mealtimes. If your child is a picky or small eater, they may be filling up on juice or milk. Try providing just water for the lunch.