For kids, a balanced lunch provides nutrients to fuel their brains and growing bodies. Research shows well-nourished children perform better in school through increased concentration and learning retention. Packing a healthy lunch is important for adults too. Benefits of bringing your own lunch include increased fiber intake and weight management as well as saving time and money.
May 25 celebrates 'Brown Bag It Day' and encourages you to pack a sack lunch from home instead of dining out. Here are smart tips to help you pack a nutrient punch into your sack lunch:
- Include servings from at least 3 of the 5 food groups. (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy): Eating a wide variety of foods provides a variety of nutrients that the body needs for optimal health.
- Include nutrient-rich choices from each food group:
- Fruits and vegetables - Include a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables. If you have tomato on a sandwich or salad choose a different colored fruit such as blackberries or grapes. 'Have a Plant' as part of each meal and snack! To learn more about fruits and veggies, visit our 'Have a Plant' at https://fruitsandveggies.org/
- Whole grains - For any grain item (bread, tortilla, pasta, crackers, cereal, etc) check the ingredient list and choose those made with whole grain or whole wheat flour. Half of the grains we consume should be 'whole' since whole grains contain more fiber compared to refined grains.
- Lean proteins - For lunch meat, opt for turkey, chicken breast, ham, or roast beef instead of higher fat choices such as salami and bologna. You can also include leftovers from the night before! Other protein options include: tuna, peanut butter, or hummus.
- Dairy - From cheese on a sandwich to yogurt for dessert or a cup of milk to drink, there are many ways to incorporate dairy. If choosing higher fat dairy (2% or whole), be sure to regularly avoid higher fat meats and condiments.
- Aim for variety: Avoid packing the same meal every day. Instead be creative in planning your lunches for better balanced nutrition and to prevent boredom from continually eating the same thing.
- Think about your drink: Choose calorie-free beverages over soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks or energy drinks. If you want a beverage besides water, try milk or 100% fruit juice.
- Don’t forget about food safety: While the brown lunch sack is iconic, instead pack your lunch in an insulated bag and include an ice pack to maintain the proper temperature of perishable foods. Another option is to freeze lunch box items such as bottled water which will keep the other foods cold as the ice melts to water in time for lunch. Always refrigerate your lunch when possible, even if you have an ice pack. Food is only nutritious if safe to eat!
This week we have great sales on lunch box items including:
- Whole Seedless Watermelon for $3.98 each. Simply cut and portion into containers for a refreshing side as part of your lunch!
- Taylor Farms Large Vegetable Tray for $8.99 each. Portion into lunch bags for veggies on the go!
- Tricuit and Wheat Thin whole grain crackers for $1.99 each. Pair with cheese and deli meat or nut butter for a homemade 'lunchable'.
- Kraft Chunk Cheese or Cracker Barrel Chunk Cheese for $1.79. Cheese pairs well with whole grain crackers as well as fruit such as apples and pears!
- Our Family Beef Jerky for $3.99 each. Great for lunches when you don't have access to a refrigerator!
Today and every day, remember to reach for a healthy lunch to keep your body fueled and be sure to shop VG's Grocery for a great selection of healthy lunch box items!
Stephanie Edson - Regional Wellness Specialist
Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.