It’s time to channel your inner child. You don’t even need to have the coolest lunch box.
And there’s no better day to do so than on March 10, “National Pack Your Lunch Day,” an annual celebration that promotes healthy waistlines and hefty wallets. UNLV Instructor and nutritionist Samantha Coogan has tips and tricks to satisfy your grumbling belly at work or school all while keeping it nutritious and affordable.
- Balance your bag. Coogan says that a nutritious lunch includes ½ fruits and vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch. This helps promote good health and provides a variety of nutrients to the body.
- Mix it up. Steer yourself out of a rut by adding a new item to your or your children’s lunches each week. It keeps things exciting, but still keeps meals nutritious.
- Some like it hot. Feeling the winter blahs? Bringing a thermos filled with low-sodium soup for lunch will keep you full and warm.
- More is better. People who have a full day away from home should pack food not just for lunch but for nibbles throughout the day, which will prevent unhealthy snacking before and after lunch.
- Keep it cool. Don’t feel embarrassed about ditching the “cool” brown bag for a reusable lunch pail. It helps keep your lunch cold and fresh for a long day, all while being better for the environment.
- Heard of the dollar-store diet? Keep your produce fresh and your wallet full by shopping for fruits and veggies for the week at a nearby dollar-discount store. UNLV researchers discovered that produce at dollar-discount stores is the same quality as at the grocery store.
- Say goodbye to sugary drinks. Empty calories and processed sugar add up. Sticking to water, unsweetened tea, or kombucha will help keep you hydrated without the added sugar and additional calories.
Coogan suggests carving out time during the weekend to meal plan — create a menu for the week that incorporates fun, nutritious recipes, then begin food prep (such as chopping vegetables) or cook items that you can grab, go, and warm up later.
“Meal planning is a great way to pack your lunch for the week. It helps you control what you are putting in your lunch each day,” she said. “The more prepared you are, the better chance you have to stay on track with nutrition goals, and maybe save a few dollars along the way.”