Tip #12: Banish Brown Bag Boredom
It is a misnomer that a meal taken from home is healthier than eaten out. With all due respect, I can say that because I have taken thousands of diet recalls from people of all ages. What I have learned is that we are creatures of habit. We gravitate toward the same foods and meals to get it done quickly. Variety takes creativity, and let’s be honest, variety is generally frowned upon by most kids. They like their favorite foods, and those are the ones they want to see in their lunches each day. However, the sooner you incorporate a variety of foods into your daily diet, the easier it is for your children to accept it. That will become the new normal.
But this isn’t just about the kids. We need to take a closer look at the quality and variety of our own lunches. I am an encourager of bringing your lunch to work. It saves time, you can maximize nutrition and minimize things such as sodium and saturated fat. We do get ourselves into a rut with the same ‘ole lunches as adults, too. So let’s look at ways to renew our lunch time choices.
Lunches brought from home are often unbalanced. Kids lunches are very heavily fruit and baked chips with no veggies or just one kind repeated over and over (baby carrots!). Adult lunches are often too small and they wonder why they have such sweet cravings at night. A well-balanced lunch is not only having the right foods, but also having enough calories to fuel the rest of your day. That is why the MyPlate meal set-up is such a great visual:
Not only is it a good visual, but it is based on nutritional science for what your body needs – a lean protein, a low-fat dairy, a grain or starchy vegetable, a non-starchy vegetable and a serving of fruit give your body complementary nutrition visa vie the different food groups. These foods don’t have to be all separated, though. A good lunch example: a whole grain turkey wrap with field greens, tomatoes, red onions and avocado with a side salad and a yogurt parfait topped with fruit is a complete MyPlate. See how that works? Work on getting what you should have and what you should limit naturally becomes that - limited. Use the MyPlate template as your guide when putting lunches together and you will balance out well.
Break Out the Thermos
Why don’t we see thermoses used as much these days? I think it is great to have a warm meal at lunch, and for some, the only way to have that happen is by the use of a thermos. Most kids do not have the opportunity to heat their lunches up, so a thermos is a handy tool. For food safety, be sure you heat the food or soup to 160 degrees before putting it into the thermos. Use a food thermometer to ensure the correct temperature. Seal the thermos tight to avoid leaks and premature cooling. The food needs to stay above 140 degrees to stay food safe.
Thermoses open up so much more variety for you and your kids to eat at lunch. Leftovers, soups, crock pot meals, hot pastas/noodle/casserole dishes all become great options.
Eat Seasonally Colorful
Eating seasonally not only promotes variety, it has a tendency to be cheaper! Seasonal produce is cheaper overall. It is really important to vary your produce items to maximize the nutritional profile of your overall intake. We may love broccoli, but broccoli doesn’t give you everything you need and the minerals that the broccoli you eat everyday may be lacking. Locate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for the most economical way to buy local and seasonal. Allow the seasons to help promote a varied color on your family’s plate. What’s in season now? Find out HERE.
Try New Recipes
Spend a Saturday or Sunday browsing Pinterest for fun & healthy lunch ideas. I went ahead did the search for you, so all you have to do is click HERE. You can also browse some of Lemond Nutrition Pinterest boards. We are always adding practical food, nutrition, kitchen - and overall wellness pins we find and enjoy ourselves. You can also go to our nutrition resources page on our website to see some of the sites we recommend. Many of those sites have recipe ideas. Fold in some new food ideas periodically to change things up!
Fun Food Containers
You would think this would be especially fun for kids, and it is. Visually-pleasing meal set-ups are overall better accepted meals. But that is the same for adults! I did an entire post on this awhile back (Food Containers: The New Brown Bag), so check out some of the things we highlighted. Head over to the Container Store one afternoon. They have such a great variety of food containers that make eating lunches from home more fun.
March is National Nutrition Month! We have committed to do 14 blog posts that tackle an important topic in food and nutrition. To see all the posts we have done including some from previous years, click on “National Nutrition Month” under blog category.