If thinking about packing a lunch feels overwhelming, think about the control you can have over your health and budget if you take a few minutes of time to prepare meals for you and your family. You will save time in lines, have more control over portions and nutrition, and save money. Yes, packing your lunch does take a little more effort than a drive through meal or standing in line in the cafeteria, but you and your family are worth this effort and there are huge health benefits in the long run.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on packing tasty and healthy mid-day meals:
· Plan your weekly lunch menu every Sunday.
· Try using frozen bread to make sandwiches – this can keep your lunch cool and at a safe temperature longer.
· Consider what leftovers would make a good lunch.
· Pack your lunch(es) the night before.
· Remind yourself to TAKE your lunch – place notes on the refrigerator, coffee pot or in your car so you don’t forget.
· Be sure to keep cold foods cold.
· Read the labels of the foods you pack to verify portion sizes and other nutritional information you feel is important.
· Reward yourself by making your own Lunch It, Punch It card that gives you a free pass to take yourself out to each after every 10 lunches you brown bag.
· Step away from your work area to eat. That means get away from your desk! This keeps you from working during your lunch break. Take a walk with the time you saved not driving to lunch and not standing in line. We are all more productive when we actually take breaks.
· Consider lunch swapping. Remember in elementary school when you would trade lunches with a classmate? There is nothing that says we can’t do this as adults. A version of the lunch swap is that you trade who provides the lunch that day and take turns feeding each other! This can provide you lunch camaraderie and keep your budget and dietary goals on target.
· Consider using real silverware and dishes to help you remember that your break, and this meal, is important.
· Keep your lunch packing system easy enough for you to use every day.
· Arrange an indulgence every so often. Are sweets your kryptonite? Include a small sweet treat in your lunch. Is cheese your indulgence? Pack your favorite cheese once a week.
Brown-bagging it is not meant to be a chore; it is important to make it fun and easy. When you make brown-bagging a health habit, you have complete control of the nutritional content, quality and portions for your lunch. This effort is one of the surest ways to trim your waistline and your budget. The time and money you save is precious.
Submitted by: Kym Halliday Clear, RN, BSN, CCRN-K / Manager Outpatient Programs @ Lovelace Women’s Hospital.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics www.eatright.gov