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It’s that time of year again: Back to school! Whether your child is off to kindergarten, senior year of high school, or even college, bringing a good-for-you lunch from home is one simple and affordable step toward better health. 

Six quick tips for a lunch with a nutritious punch

1) On the weekend, decide what you will eat for lunch for the week and add it to your grocery list. That way, it’s quick and easy to grab healthy choices when you pack your lunch. Consider batch cooking on the weekend. Make a big pot of chili or soup or a big bowl of whole-grain and veggie salad. These will keep for a few days in the fridge and can be eaten throughout the week for lunch. 

2.) Take five minutes every night (or morning) to pack something healthy for the day. Use portable containers, such as a lunchbox or thermos and various containers with tight-fitting lids, to pack and take your healthy lunch. Extra-small containers come in handy for single servings of peanut butter or light salad dressings. 

3.) Remember food safety. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator to store your lunch, insert a cold pack into the lunch box and be sure to choose foods that will stay fresh and yummy from the time you pack them until it’s time to eat lunch. 

4.) For days you don’t have time to pack a lunch, keep some nonperishable healthy options within quick reach, such as turkey jerky, whole-wheat crackers, low-sugar protein bars, no-sugar-added canned fruit, popcorn and nuts.

5.) Remember to always use the healthy plate as a guide for your lunch to include all five food groups! Try not to repeat a food group if you haven’t included all five first! 

6.) Review school, campus or worksite lunch menus in advance and discuss healthy choices with your child if need be. Supplementing other foods to make school/work lunches more well-rounded and catered to food preferences is a bonus! If there is a concern with food intolerances or allergies, contact the school nurse. 

Four satisfying and healthy lunches while representing all five food groups:

1.) Pack a hard-boiled egg or some pieces of white rotisserie chicken, a piece of fruit, a 100-calorie Greek yogurt, and five whole-wheat crackers. Bring as many carrot or celery sticks as you like! Always choose a light or low-fat dressing for dips on the side. 

2.) Mix together some cooked quinoa, rinsed and drained canned white beans, chopped bell pepper, carrots. and broccoli to make a whole grain and veggie salad. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in some low-fat feta cheese. Add some grapes on the side and a small handful of dry-roasted almonds, if desired.

3.) Put a healthy spin on the traditional sandwich. Choose a sundried tomato wrap with low-sodium turkey and lowfat baby swiss, spinach, tomato, cucumbers and avocado.  Add two small clementines on the side to make your lunch complete! 

4.) Pack a cup of leftover chili or vegetable soup. Top it with some fresh tomatoes and nonfat plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Add a cup of fresh or frozen berries on the side.

To learn more tips from our registered dietitian nutritionists, contact us today to get a personalized nutrition plan for you or your entire family!