Whether you are packing lunches for yourself, your partner, or your children, there are some strategies that will make packing lunches quicker and healthier.
5 simple tips for packing healthy lunches:
- When possible, pack your lunch the night before. For many people, mornings are often rushed and may not provide time to pack a healthy lunch. This may result in packing or purchasing convenience food, which is usually high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Instead of waiting until the morning to pack your lunch, pack it the night before, when you may have more time to think about what you can include for a healthy and satisfying lunch.
- Pack leftovers. Healthy dinners including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins make great leftovers that can be taken for lunch the next day. Just remember to make extra to take for lunch! Also, some leftovers like cooked chicken breast can be chopped up and added to a salad or sliced and made into a sandwich. Use an ice pack to keep your lunch cold until lunchtime if you don’t have access to a fridge. Try heating soups up in the morning and taking them with you in a thermos if you don’t have a way to heat them up at lunchtime.
- Make half your lunch fruits and vegetables. This could include a fruit salad, cut fresh vegetables, a hearty vegetable soup, or vegetables on a sandwich. Get creative! Apples, pears, peaches, plums, oranges, and bananas are perfect for sack lunches since they are already packaged in their skin, rind, or peel-no preparation is required! Strawberries, blueberries, and cherries are also great in sack lunches but need to be washed and put in a container. For kids, slice apples and cut oranges so the fruit is easier for them to eat.
- Add lean protein. Try mixing up your protein by packing nuts, beans, hummus, chicken, turkey, tuna, or hard boiled egg. Include low-fat dairy foods like yogurt, milk, or a cheese stick in your lunch to increase the protein and calcium. Getting enough protein at lunchtime will help you feel full and satisfied for longer.
- Include healthy snack foods. Fruit rolls, cookies, candy bars, and chips are common snack that satisfy cravings for sweet and salty foods. Instead of fruit rolls or cookies, try adding fresh fruit, dried fruit, or 100% fruit leather to satisfy your sweet tooth. Alternatives to chips might be lightly salted nuts, cut fresh vegetables with hummus or other dip, whole grain crackers and cheese, or vegetable chips—these should provide some satisfying crunch in your sack lunch. These foods also make great snacks to pack with your lunch for a morning or afternoon snack.
Packing healthy lunches for you or your family ensures that you will be full, satisfied, and have plenty of energy for your afternoon activities.