Diet and Nutrition
Healthy Lunches: The New 'Brown Bag'
Remember those packed lunches in elementary school?
The notion of packed lunches might conjure up memories of brown bags, wax paper, cardboard cartons of whole milk, and of course, peanut butter and jelly on white bread! But packed lunches today can be healthy, cost-efficient alternatives to vending machines, cafeterias, or restaurants.
Bringing a packed lunch to work or school is one way to ensure that you will have nutritious foods at your fingertips. Even if you don't have time for a long lunch break, take a few minutes to enjoy a meal brought from home. Skipping meals is associated with low blood glucose levels, fatigue, headaches, and overall lack of energy. You will be more productive in the afternoon after you have "refueled"! Tips for appetizing, nutritious lunches:
- Forget the brown bags and pack your lunch in a colorful insulated bag that will help to keep your food at the proper temperature (Of course refrigerate your lunch if possible).
- Vary your sandwiches with whole wheat varieties of bread, pita pockets, tortillas, or English muffins.
- For a sandwich filling, try flavored hummus (the roasted red pepper version is delicious!).
- Add crunchy, tasty vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, shredded carrots or beets, or diced zucchini to your sandwich.
- Pack fresh vegetables with salsa, low-fat dressing, or peanut butter for dipping.
- Add lots of vegetables to mixed greens or a veggie kabob, along with low-fat salad dressing.
- Try flavored mustard, pesto, or sun-dried tomato paste on your sandwich.
- Pack fresh fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth (and to reach the goal of at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day).
- For the cold days ahead, pack a thermos or microwavable container with a hearty soup or your favorite low-fat or vegetarian chili.
- Save leftovers from dinner for tomorrow's lunch. Those wraps, burritos, pasta, and other dinner foods can still be tasty the next day.
- If you have more spare time on the weekends, prepare casseroles or soups and freeze small portions for easy-to-pack lunches.
- If you're not a fan of tap water, don't forget to pack a beverage. Your best choices are bottled water, 100% fruit juice, or low-fat/skim milk.
With a little bit of planning, you will find that spending 10 minutes to pack a healthy lunch is worth the investment!
For more information:
Go to the Diet and Nutrition
health topic, where you can:
- Read articles on this topic
- the previously asked questions
Last Reviewed: Nov 01, 2006
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati