How often do you just grab whatever's available when you're hungry, even relying on a vending machine to supply your midday meal? Reinvigorate your lunch, save money and eat healthier with the following packing tips:
- Pick foods from a range of food groups to maximize your energy. Choose fruits; vegetables; low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese; whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta or brown rice; and lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans for your lunches.
- Think beyond the typical sandwich and chips. Stuff whole-grain pita bread with sliced chicken, cucumbers, red onion, low-fat feta cheese and a dash of light dressing. Make kebabs with cut-up fruits and pair with low-fat yogurt as a dip. Replace peanut-butter sandwiches with another nut or seed spread like sunflower-seed butter.
- No microwave? No problem. Keep hot foods hot with an insulated vacuum container such as a thermos. Fill with hot stew, chili, vegetable soup or leftovers for a satisfying meal on a cold day.
- Have easy brown-bag options handy. Pair low-fat cheese sticks and smoked turkey slices with whole-grain crackers, crunchy raw vegetables and a handful of grapes, or try whole-grain pasta salad — made with chicken, vegetables and shredded Parmesan cheese — with low-fat pudding and a crisp apple. Another option: Layer hummus, sliced tomatoes and reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese over whole-grain bread for a taste-tempting sandwich. Add a handful of baked potato chips and a fresh pear for a satisfying meal.
- Revive leftovers. Don't let food from the day before go to waste — turn it into a tasty lunch! Pasta dishes can be enhanced with vegetables, such as a serving of broccoli or a handful of baby spinach. Bring salads to life by adding your favorite raw veggies or protein, such as a boiled egg, chicken or tofu.
Packing lunches can be challenging if you aren't already in the habit. Look within yourself to find barriers to success and plan solutions that work for you…and save money while you're at it!