The noon meal is an important break from work or learning in the morning. It’s a time to regroup and get some fresh air, connect with friends, or do both. The cost of eating out in a restaurant each day can add up very quickly, and people who are looking for economical and healthy lunch ideas can choose to bring something from home.
Lunch Doesn’t Have to Be Sandwiches
While sandwiches are a staple item that is commonly found in a packed lunch, people who decide to brown bag their noon meal have other options. If you or your children like the idea of something that can be held easily in the hand at lunch, use flatbread or tortillas and roll up tasty fillings. Just about any sandwich filling can be used, including egg or tuna salad. Lean meat like roast beef, turkey or chicken, low-fat cheese, and lettuce give your roll-up extra flavor or texture. Spreading on a layer of hummus or a flavorful chutney or relish can also add lots of flavor for way fewer calories than mayonnaise.
Other good choices at lunch include packing a thermos of soup or chili and adding a slice of whole wheat bread or a roll. Pasta and tomato or meat sauce made with lean ground beef can also be packed for this purpose. Carrot or celery sticks and hummus, grape tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, string cheese and low-fat yogurt are also convenient choices for a healthy lunch.
Another good strategy when you want to pack a lunch from home is to double the recipe when you make a dinner at home. The extra portion can be placed in a reusable container and taken to work the next day. Add a salad or some fresh vegetables to round out the meal.
Don’t Forget the Fruit
If you want to add a healthy alternative to cookies and cakes in to a packed lunch, consider fruit instead. Whole fruit, as opposed to fruit juice, provides much-needed fiber to the diet. Fresh fruit in season is a good choice, and you can also buy canned fruit packed in juice for lunches. Keep in mind that single-serving packages may be convenient, but they are more expensive than buying a larger can of fruit and dividing the contents into some reusable containers for lunches.
Stay Well Hydrated
Along with the food that goes into a packed lunch, you will need to include a drink as well. Water is always a good choice, and a refillable bottle can be used for this purpose. If you or your child would rather have something else to drink, consider small boxes (4-6oz) of fruit juices or skim milk as opposed to fruit punch or sugary soft drinks. Even if a fruit punch has Vitamin C added, it will contain a high amount of artificial sweeteners. Always read the label carefully before choosing a drink to pack in a lunch.
Get creative when you are planning what to pack for lunch! For inspiration, check out photos and sign up for a lunchbox newsletter from Laptop Lunches, or check out the Bento lunch craze to discover a world of healthy lunch ideas that are almost too cute to eat!