Written by: Bonnie Wilson, MS, RD, LDN
After a year of being home, many are now finding themselves heading back into the office or the classroom. With this transition to working in a different setting, it is inevitable that mealtimes will look different as well. While our homes can provide constant access to food whenever we are hungry, that might not be the case at the workplace. With this change you might need to learn (or re-learn) how to pack healthy lunches to bring with you. Follow along for tips to pack a satisfying mid-day meal!
Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch
1. Include a variety of food groups.
To ensure that your meal is nutritious and satisfying, you will want to make sure that it contains multiple food groups. This will help you get the proper balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein that you need.
Use the chart below for ideas for each food group. If there are food groups that are left out of your meal, you can always pack them as snacks!
|Meat, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, legumes, soy, milk, yogurt, and cheese||Whole grain bread, wraps, and pasta, brown rice, beans, legumes, potatoes, corn, and whole grain crackers||Apples, grapes, bananas, berries, peaches, pears, melons, oranges, dried fruit (i.e. raisins), etc.||Colorful peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, eggplant, asparagus, cabbage, carrots, etc.||Nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters, avocados, hummus, olive oil and vegetable oils|
2. Include a variety of colors.
Plants contain different pigments, or phytonutrients, that give them their color. Phytonutrients act as antioxidants in our bodies, which help to prevent chronic disease! Try to pack a lunch with a variety of colors, or as dietitians like to say, “Eat the Rainbow!”.
3. Include a variety of textures.
Textures can easily enhance the experience of a meal and make it much more satisfying! Examples of adding texture include putting dried fruit or nuts in a salad, adding raw veggies to a sandwich, or throwing some berries in Greek yogurt.
4. Have the right tools.
Packing a lunch is much easier with the proper storage. Consider investing in items such as microwave-safe containers, a lunch bag big enough for your meal/snacks, a cooler or ice packs, or a thermos.
5. Plan ahead.
If possible, make multiple meals ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. If this is not an option, think about ways you can include the same ingredients in multiple lunches to make grocery shopping easier, such as using deli meat on both sandwiches and salads. Make sure to prep your grocery lists ahead of time to make it a stress-free experience.
6. Rely on leftovers.
If time is limited, think about ways to cook bigger potions at dinners so that you can bring leftovers to lunch. This can help to save some time in the kitchen while also ensuring that you always have a balanced meal prepared. Check our Avance Nutrition’s FREE recipe books for some easy weeknight meal ideas.
7. Keep it simple.
Keep some easy protein options on hand such as frozen, pre-cooked chicken, veggie burgers, or canned beans (be sure to drain and rinse). You can also save time by getting pre-chopped fruits and vegetables.
8. Choose foods you enjoy!
This is a VERY important part of building a healthy lunch. Try to find ways to make a lunch that you can look forward to. If we make a lunch that we think is boring, we will be a lot more likely to skip or go out to eat instead! Condiments can be an easy addition to a meal to help keep it interesting, such as dips, sauces, and dressings.
9. Pack snacks.
Remember that because the average workday is 8-9 hours, it is likely that you will need to eat more than once during this time. Eating every 3-4 hours can help maintain energy levels and productivity. Keep some snacks at work or in your car to make things easier. Snack ideas include veggies and hummus, apple and peanut butter, popcorn, or Greek yogurt with berries.
Although packing a lunch for work or school might take a little planning, it does not need to be complicated! For more tips and ideas on meal planning, grocery shopping, and all things healthy eating, make an appointment with an Avance Care Registered Dietitian. You can schedule online at avancenutrition.com or call (919) 237-1337, option 4 to schedule your appointment today.
Bonnie is a registered dietitian at the Durham location. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home of Raleigh, NC and playing with her puppy, Nola, or kitty, Wolfgang. She enjoys most sports and can often be found cheering on her NC State Wolfpack, Carolina Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes.