By Adrian Sparrow
Whether packing a lunch for yourself or kids going off to school, creating a healthy, filling meal isn’t always easy. When it comes to packing a healthy lunch five days a week, variety is critical. The US Department of Agriculture recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables while including whole grains, varied protein sources, and dairy. You want to avoid empty calories and processed foods that inevitably leave you and your kids feeling sluggish.
There are plenty of things to consider when packing lunch: What cooking resources will you or the kids have access to? What nutritious foods can you pack that will keep for several hours? What sort of storage do you have available? What if you’re in a rush?
Here are a few easy-to-pack ideas for each group:
–Grains– Crackers, pretzels, whole-grain bread, rice, quinoa, granola, muffins, oatmeal
–Fruit– Blueberries, strawberries, apple, banana, grapes, peeled orange
–Veggies– broccoli florets, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, cucumber, peas
–Protein– nut and seed butter, beans, deli meats, hard-boiled eggs
–Dairy– Cheese, yogurt, milk, soy milk
When there’s not much time to pack lunch, stick with whole produce, leftovers, and easy-to-grab packaged snacks (with little or no added sugars) such as cheese sticks, granola bars, and applesauce.
Below are some sample lunch combinations that you and the kids are sure to enjoy:
Turkey, cheese, and lettuce on whole-grain bread (or rolled up with whole-grain tortillas)
Waffle and sunflower butter on the side
Low-fat milk carton
Peanut butter (or almond butter for a peanut-free zone)
Raisins (Make ants on a log for the kids!)
Arugula with white beans, feta, diced avocado, and sliced tomatoes (with dressing on the side)
Mashed avocado, tomato slices, and grilled chicken strips on whole-wheat bread
Cheddar cheese cubes
Chopped vegetables (such as tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli)
Kale with shredded carrots and tuna (in case of a small office or classroom, use chicken to avoid smelling fishy!)