6 Tips for a Healthy Packed Lunch

Posted on April 6, 2011

While it’s easy to rely on the school cafeteria for the kids and fast food meals for you, eating lunch that way will quickly result in unwanted pounds.

Use the following guidelines for packing healthy lunches that cover the spectrum of nutrients for your growing kids and for your own nutrient-dense, fitness lunches.

Tip #1:  Include Protein

Kids need protein to support their growing body, and you need plenty of protein in order to grow and maintain lean muscle tissue. Here’s a list of healthy protein sources: fish, beans, tofu, nuts, eggs, low fat cheese, chicken, turkey, lean pork and lamb.

Tip #2:  Whole Grains are Important

Whole grains are one of the major building blocks of a healthy meal. White bread, bagels, pasta and rice should be avoided if possible since they have been stripped of the nutrients and minerals.  Here’s a list of healthy whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, whole-wheat or sprouted grain bread, barley, whole grain cereal and whole wheat pasta.

Tip #3:  Try a variety of Colorful Veggies

Pack each lunch with lots of colorful vegetables to make sure that your kids are getting all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Examples: Put a small container of hummus with cut veggies for dipping. Fill your sandwiches with baby arugula, roasted peppers and slices of tomato. Invest in a small thermos and fill it with vegetable soup.

Tip #4:  Eat Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is filled with vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Choose a variety of colors to ensure that your kids are getting a range of nutrients. Avoid canned fruit coated in syrup, and also from fruit snacks and chews that contain added sugars. Though the natural sugars within fruit are much healthier than refined sugar, too much of it will have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels and the extra calories will be stored as fat.

Tip #5:  Stay Hydrated

Include water in your packed lunch and try to avoid the juice or soda pop trap. Once your kids are accustomed to drinking these sugary treats expect a battle when you switch to water. This is one fight that is worth winning. Remind yourself that the sugary drinks are filled with empty calories, which quickly lead to weight gain and sugar robs the body of vital nutrients and minerals.

Tip #6:  Vary your Calcium

Your kids need calcium in order to build strong, healthy bones. Calcium isn’t just found in dairy products. There are many plant sources that contain calcium that is more readily absorbed by the body than the calcium found in dairy. Try these sources of calcium: nuts, dark leafy greens, salmon, broccoli, tofu, soy milk, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt.

Written By:  Margie Setterlof, PT, CN

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NzE6Imh0dHA6Ly9ncm9mZmFuZGFzc29jaWF0ZXMuY29tL3dwLWNvbnRlbnQvd29vX3VwbG9hZHMvMy1ncm9mZl9oZWFkZXIucG5nIjt9PC9saT48L3VsPg==