In the rush of life, it can be hard to remember to make healthy food choices. Packing a healthy lunch for the whole family can be easier with a little bit of planning.
The First Step: Plan
Preparing a quick, healthy lunch may seem impossible on days when there are so many other things to do. The first step toward a healthier lunch is planning for it. As you prepare your grocery list for the week, make sure to add foods that will make it more convenient to pack your family lunches. Try planning out your meals before the week starts so you know exactly what to pack when you're rushing to get out the door.
What to Pack: 3 Tips
A healthy lunch includes a variety of food groups to give you the nutrition and energy you need throughout the day. Doylestown Health nutrition expert Kristin Morrow, RD, LDN, CDE, offers three tips for choosing what to pack.
1. Protein First
Protein helps support healthy blood sugar and also contains amino acids (building blocks of protein) which can help with alertness and healthy mood.
Simple options include:
- Leftover dinner meats, such as grilled chicken cut into strips
- Greek yogurt
- Cheese sticks
- Hard boiled eggs
- Canned salmon
More protein options
2. Choose Better Carbs
Try to avoid refined carbohydrates (processed and/or enriched white or wheat flour). Refined carbohydrates tend to spike blood sugar very quickly leading to bursts of energy rather than sustained energy needed during the day.
- Look for sprouted bread (such as the Ezekiel brand). Sprouting grains make nutrients more available for absorption and are easier to digest.
- Sweet tooth? Fruit contains naturally occurring sugar. Try adding fruits like bananas, grapes, apples or oranges.
- Salt-lover? Try vegetables like peppers or carrots paired with a dip such as hummus or guacamole.
- Incorporate whole grains. Try exchanging white bread for whole wheat, or white rice for brown rice.
More whole grain options
3. Balance Check
The most important thing to remember when packing a healthy lunch is to seek balance. Remember to include all of the following for a complete, nutritious meal:
- 50% of the meal should contain non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or tomatoes.
- 25% should contain carbohydrates such as sprouted breads, beans, hummus, potato or grains.
- 25% should contain protein such as meat, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts or seeds.
- Small amounts of fat should also be present. Choose healthy fat options like avocados, nuts, seeds or olive oil.
Sample Health Lunch
- Turkey wraps - Turkey, lettuce and tomato slices in a whole-wheat tortilla
- Baby carrots with a mini guacamole
- Skim milk
Healthy Kids Lunch Box Ideas
Follow Doylestown Health's board Healthy Kids Lunch Box Ideas on Pinterest.
A Healthy Direction
"Getting kids involved by encouraging them to choose colorful vegetables at the market, wash and cut fruit or proteins in cubes for easy bites, or packing their favorite water bottle for proper hydration can help keep them interested and invested in their own healthy lunch," says Morrow.
About Pediatric Services
Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities. The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.