With the kids going back to school and everyone returning to work in person, packing a lunch everyday is now becoming a regular part of the routine. Packing your own lunch is not only more budget friendly, but it can also be healthier than grabbing food from the cafeteria or local fast food restaurant when lunch time rolls around.
Lunch is your opportunity to refuel your brain and body so you are able to successfully make it through the work day. Without a healthy balanced lunch you’ll lack energy, focus, and your performance will ultimately suffer. Below are 5 tips for packing a healthier lunch.
1. Read nutrition labels & consider portions
While processed and prepackaged products should be limited, they are sometimes easy to add to your lunch as they don’t need to be cooked or temperature controlled. The downside is, they usually contain unhealthy excess carbs, sugars, and sodium. It is important to read the nutrition label for the run down on ingredients and the proper portions.
The nutrition facts label can usually be found on the back or side of most packaged foods and beverages. It will provide detailed information about the food's nutrient content such as the amounts of fat, sugar, sodium, and fiber it has.
Learn more on this blog about reading nutrition labels.
2. Always include fresh fruits and vegetables
Fruits and veggies should make up half of your plate at every meal, including lunch. Fruits and veggies contain important vitamins and minerals that your body needs. They are also a great source of fiber, which can help maintain a healthy gut and combat other digestive issues.
It is recommended that everyone eat at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are nutrient dense but low in calories which makes them the ultimate healthy snack or side dish.
3. Pack foods that you enjoy eating with healthy swaps
Packing foods that you actually enjoy eating may be obvious, but trying to eat healthier often tempts us to ditch all of our favorite foods and start from scratch with healthier options. While this works for some, it can also have the opposite effect and make meal time less enjoyable and harder to maintain.
So before you completely ditch some of your favorites, research some healthy swaps. Instead of packing flour tortillas opt for corn, or swap sugary fruit flavored yogurt with greek yogurt and fresh fruit.
4. Choose whole grains
Sandwiches and wraps are usually go to’s for lunch. They’re easy to make, easy to store, and the varieties can be endless. While refined grains such as white flour, white bread, and white rice have been processed and stripped of their dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins, whole grains are healthier and offer tons of benefits.
Whole grains are present in their whole form or ground while retaining important nutrients. They are naturally high in fiber which help you feel fuller for longer. Whole grains have also been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. When choosing breads, wraps, or any grains for your lunch make sure they are marked 100% whole grain.
5. Make your lunch ahead of time
Prepping your food ahead of time not only makes for a hassle free morning, but it sets you up to make healthier choices. Giving yourself time to pack your lunch gives you more time to prepare and also be mindful of your selections so that you are making healthy choices.
Whether you pack your lunch every night or choose a day to prepare multiple lunches for the week, make sure you get that head start to save you time, money, and stress.
Packing a healthier lunch may take a bit of planning and tweaking your normal routine and food choices, but the reward of a healthier meal and better nutrition is well worth it! Follow these 5 tips and you will be on the way to enjoying a healthy lunch packed with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and foods you can enjoy.