Healthy Lunches for School or Work

Lunch

Photo courtesy of AboutLunch.com

Back-to-school season provides a perfect opportunity to make wholesome meals part of your daily homework. It is easy to make healthy, enticing, portion-controlled brown-bagged lunches that your kids – and whole family – will love.

I recommend this 2-step action plan:

  • Select foods from each food category, including wholegrains, dairy, fruit, vegetables and lean protein
  • Prepare lunches from the night before to be ready-to grab-and-go in the morning

Sandwiches – Choose your “wrap” first. Great options include:

  • 100% wholewheat bread or sandwich thins, bagel thins, hamburger bun, pita pocket, 90-calorie flatbread, wholegrain sprouted bread (such as refrigerated Ezekiel bread) or wheat or corn tortillas
  • 100% wholewheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • 2 small thin-crust pizza slices (press top-sides together, crust facing outward)
  • Large lettuce leaves

Healthy, tasty fillings – Fill your wrap with:

Lean protein, such as:

  • Leftover chicken, turkey, ham, roast, steak, burger, meatloaf or meatballs from last night’s dinner or store-bought rotisserie chicken or turkey
  • Nitrite-free lean deli meats, including turkey, chicken, ham and roast beef
  • 2% milk cheese slice, using just one slice per sandwich
  • Peanut butter or almond butter (add apple or banana slices sprinkled with orange or lemon juice to prevent darkening)
  • Tuna-fish salad made with lower-fat mayonnaise, chopped onions, apple, celery and relish
  • Smoked salmon or boiled shrimp
  • Hummus (any flavor) ; enjoy with roasted or fresh red bell pepper slices, baby carrots, cucumber slices
  • Ground turkey patty or soy-burger, bean or veggie burger (buy frozen)
  • Soy pepperoni rounds or Canadian bacon

Then add vegetables you love:

  • Tomato slices and olive tapenade topped with a little Feta cheese
  • Grilled eggplant slices sprinkled with grated Parmesan; and/or grilled onions and roasted red bell pepper
  • Grilled Portobello mushroom slices with sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted vegetables (add a dollop of hummus for flavor and “holding” veggies together)
  • Tossed salad leftovers without dressing (add a cheese slice or hummus in a wrap or pocket)
  • Cucumber slices in turkey or chicken sandwiches
  • Cooked leftover spinach and/or mushrooms in beef sandwiches
  • Fresh onion slices
  • Coleslaw or broccoli slaw or grated carrots
  • lettuce or kale

Add these on the side (we cannot eat enough veggies!):

  • Sliced cucumbers, radishes, green onions, or colorful bell peppers
  • Pico de gallo or avocado slices
  • Bean salad (3-bean, lentil, or black-eyed pea)

Or skip the “wrap”, and simply pack cool foods to enjoy. Healthy ideas include:

  • Sliced apples and pears with almond butter or ricotta cheese – bring along a baggie filled with two tablespoons of almond butter or ¼ cup ricotta cheese; add a handful of almonds or walnuts
  • Individually-wrapped cheese portions such as Laughing Cow rounds or wedges, Cabot cheese slices or string cheese to enjoy with fruit, cherry tomatoes, and wholewheat crackers
  • Fresh veggies, like baby carrots, cucumber, broccoli, celery, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, sugar-snap beans, with hummus or bean dip or cottage cheese for dipping
  • Fresh sliced fruit served with yogurt or cottage cheese; and wholewheat crackers
  • Pineapple slices with ham or smoked turkey or cottage cheese
  • Cold pasta salad, coleslaw, cherry tomatoes and cold bean salad (black bean/corn combo, lentil salad, etc)
  • Tossed salad with hard-boiled egg, grated cheese, and turkey slices; dressing on the side in a small container
  • Your own mix of chex cereals, raisins and nuts, served with yogurt or a cheese slice and tomato juice
  • Kashi Go Lean Crunch, yogurt, berries in baggies to combine as a parfait

Fresh Fruit – Bring along Nature’s sweetest dessert:

  • Fresh seasonal fruit such as an apple, pear, banana, berries, melon, cherries, Cuties, orange, grapes
  • Pre-packaged sliced fruit (such as apple slices or pineapple chunks or fruit salad)
  • Grape tomatoes

Try these ideas! You’ll save calories, time and money; enjoy fresh flavors; and your new “homemade lunch” habit may help you shed 2 pounds a month! Why not start today?

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For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). You will find ideas for vegetables, leaner desserts, bars, cereals, cheeses, soups and more. My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.   

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