For many individuals, the end of summer means back to school or back to a more regular routine. It can also mean packing lunches for work or school. Having a nutritious lunch prepared can ensure that you have a good quality source of energy to get you or your child through your busy days. The following are some tips for planning balanced lunches:
1. Pack it full of protein and fibre. Protein and fibre are important components for a satisfying lunch. You can mix and match different options to create a variety of delicious meals! Fibre sources include: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds and legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas. Examples of protein include: meat and fish, cheese, yogurt, eggs, legumes, tofu and nuts and seeds.
2. Think outside the box! Sandwiches can get boring after a while, so consider other options. Try a bento box style lunch with veggies and dip, whole grain crackers, pieces of cheese and a few chicken strips. For alternative protein sources, you can try boiled eggs, baked tofu strips or even steamed soybeans (edamame) or roasted chickpeas. Try swapping out items to prevent boredom and ensure variety! Instead of a sandwich, consider using wraps to make homemade fajitas.
3. Include your children in the process. Even with very young children, getting them involved is a great opportunity for learning and it can increase the likelihood that they will eat their lunch. Give your children options to pick from; for example, they could choose the type of fruit they would like or if they would like a pita or crackers. Consider taking your children shopping to select some of their favourite (healthy) choices.
4. Snack smart. Just like meals, plan snacks that have both protein and fibre. Some examples include: yogurt and fruit or granola; cheese and whole grain crackers or fruit; apples with a nut, soy or seed butter; small homemade oatmeal muffins or breakfast cookies made or served with a source of protein like yogurt or even nut, soy or seed butter.
5. Keep food safe. Food safety is an important part of meal preparation. Not only it is important to avoid bacterial contamination while preparing meals by cleaning foods and surfaces, it is also important to ensure that foods are stored safely through the day. Keep perishable foods like meat, fish and dairy cold until lunch time by using ice packs and insulated lunch bags.