The Columbus Dispatch
Want to save money and eat better? Try packing your own lunch
Are you tired of the same old boring lunches? Looking to improve your health and well-being?
Pack your lunch!
Packing a healthy lunch provides the perfect opportunity to fuel your body and mind throughout the day.
There are lots of reasons to prepare your own lunch.
It saves you money: Preparing your own lunch at home is much cheaper than eating out every day. Why pay $10 a day on lunches that leave you feeling sluggish?
Instead, invest in some inexpensive to-go containers so you can pack delicious and healthy lunches that will leave you feeling energized and satisfied.
You eat better: Packing your own lunch allows you to choose healthier options and control portions sizes.
Fast food, deli foods and pre-packaged foods often contain high amounts of fat, salt and sugar.
It saves you time: How much time do you typically spend on a workday standing in line at a restaurant or café during your lunch break?
Don’t use up half your lunch break waiting on your food to be prepared. Bring your own lunch and use that extra time to relax and enjoy your break.
It improves focus and productivity: You’ll feel more energized and better equipped to tackle the rest of your day.
It’s easy to pack a lunch that contains all the essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and proteins that support physical and mental well-being.
Here are some tips for creating a nutritious, delicious midday meal:
● Start with a good foundation. Plan your lunch around a lean protein such as grilled chicken, beans, tofu, tuna, or hard-boiled eggs, complex carbohydrate, and vegetables or fruit.
● Mix it up. Switch things up with different combinations of proteins, grains and vegetables. Add a few nuts or seeds for crunch and try new sauces to keep it interesting.
● Opt for whole foods like fruit, carrot sticks, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and whole grain crackers, rather than processed, pre-packaged foods.
● Plan ahead. Meal prep in advance, by spending a little time on the weekend grilling chicken, chopping vegetables, or cooking grains. Portion them out into individual containers for grab-and-go lunches throughout the week.
Sandwiches are an easy mainstay for lunch. Keep them interesting by using different types of breads. Go for whole grain sandwich bread, pita, flat breads, naan, and whole grain English muffins. Try using leaf lettuce as a sandwich wrap.
Vary your sandwich spreads. Use salsa, tzatziki, hummus, mashed avocado and different types of mustard.
Try new sandwich combinations, such as peanut butter with apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, hummus with shredded carrots and zucchini, refried beans with salsa and low-fat shredded cheese in a whole wheat wrap. The combinations are endless!
Put together a simple combination of hard boiled eggs, carrot sticks with hummus, and an apple. Or pack a carton of low-fat yogurt with trail mix and mixed berries.
Buy pre-prepared salad bags and add leftover chicken, hard-boiled eggs or beans, along with whole grain crackers.
Don’t forget to pack healthy snacks! Lunch box-friendly snack options include veggie sticks with black bean dip or hummus, nuts and seeds, yogurt with berries, apple slices with peanut butter, trail mix, dried fruits, reduced-fat string cheese, and whole grain bite-size cereal, popcorn and crackers.
Bring your own water bottle and refill it throughout the day. You can switch it up by filling your bottle with unsweetened teas or flavored seltzers for a change of taste.
Packing a healthy lunch doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. By focusing on whole foods, variety, and planning, you can create delicious and nutritious midday meals that will benefit both your health and your wallet. Happy lunching!
Susie Bond is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/nutritionist in private practice. Contact her at email@example.com.