August—Tip of the Month
A new school year is just around the corner… What better time than to get back into a routine, like preparing a healthy lunch? And we’re not just talking about the kids! Bringing your own lunch and snacks to work can help save you money and means you have control over the quality and quantity of the foods you eat. Even if you are already sold on the idea of packing a lunch each day, the ideas below should make lunch prep a little less of a challenge.
Start with this one simple rule: Include items from all four food groups if possible (or at least three!) in your lunch. Since we spend most of the day at work or at school, it’s important to get enough essential nutrients throughout the day. Definitely make sure that you have sources of protein in your lunch (e.g., eggs, nuts, cheese, meat, fish), as they make us feel full for longer and avoid afternoon cravings which could defeat the purpose of bringing your own lunch. Keep in mind that while single-portion items are convenient, they may not be the best options when it comes to the environment (and your budget!). (And watch out for the often too high sodium and sugar content in these single-portion packages.)
Of course, the easiest way to prepare a lunch is to double the portion of your evening meal and bring the leftovers with you the next day. But what about those times when there’s just nothing left to eat in the house? Try adding ‘emergency items’ to your grocery list—like a low-sodium frozen meal paired with vegetables, canned tuna or eggs for a sandwich, or nuts for snacking. Or consider keeping some non-perishable snacks in your desk or locker, like crackers, dried fruits, or granola. This will help limit the need for plastic containers and minimize the weight of your everyday lunch bag. And bringing snacks and fruits to complement a takeout meal can limit the damage to your wallet and your health!
Don’t forget that perishable foods should spend the least amount of time possible at room temperature. If a fridge is not available to you, pack your lunch with an icepack, a freezable container, or a frozen juice box to help prevent foodborne illnesses.
If packing a lunch each day is not attractive to you or your kids, think of ways to make it more fun: Buy or make a nice reusable lunch bag, invest in some practical microwave-safe or dishwasher-safe containers (to avoid using disposable plastic bags and to prevent leakage), or consider using a thermos to bring hot meals and avoid line-ups at the microwave.
Ingle’s Tip of the Month was provided by Alexanne Beaudoin, Health Information Specialist, Novus Health (part of the Ingle Group of Companies)
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