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M.I.S.S. Healthy Bites: B.Y.O.H.L. (Bring Your Own Healthy Lunch)

Bring Your Own Healthy Lunch

Today marks a turning point for the calendar year because it’s officially Labor Day.  For some, it means a much needed three-day weekend, for others, overtime pay!  Some may see this day as a good excuse to fire up the grill, and some might use this as the last day to wear that all-white linen fit.  Any way you look at it, this day usually marks the end of summer…and the beginning of the school year.  If you’re out of school, think back to those times when you’d go back-to-school shopping, and anticipate the excitement of a new classroom experience.  If you’re still in school, then you know the feeling of getting all your freshest gear ready for a highly educational (and fashionable) new school year.  Whether you’re in school or not, I encourage you to have a healthy semester.  To make sure that happens, do your homework and pack yourself a healthy lunch.

As a kid, you might have had a brown bag with your name, and if you were lucky, your mom wrote your name and a smiley face!  Or, perhaps you had one of those plastic cartoon lunch pails with My Little Pony, Jem, or even Transformers!  The typical packed lunch might have had a bologna sandwich, a “juice” pouch, and maybe a bag of potato chips.  While it was probably really tasty and satisfying, and caused lunch envy from those who stood in the cafeteria line, it didn’t offer much nutrition for a growing body and mind.  Those kinds of lunches might have saved money for the family, but once again, it didn’t help the body.

Why should you worry about something so elementary, like packing a healthy lunch?  Well, as an adult, you have the access to a plethora of lunch options, some healthy and some quite questionable, but the only time you really have control of what you put into your body is when you pack it yourself.  Going through the cafeteria lines or the drive-thru may give you options, but often, the enticing other foods might win your choice over a salad.  Or, maybe you like the idea of a healthy sandwich, but how healthy can something be if the only options are enriched wheat bread?  On top of all that, buying lunch everyday will also take a toll on your wallet, further stealing money that would otherwise be spent on healthier fare.  Often the large lunch prices pay for the large portions, which could mean you’re eating way more than you should at lunch.  To save your health and your wallet, pack your lunch, and pack it right.

Although breakfast is the most important meal of the day, sometimes, realistically, there just isn’t enough time in the morning grind to get that food fuel you need.  So if you’re skipping breakfast, it’s even more important to eat the right foods during lunch time.  If time is one of your biggest challenges, you’re going to have to overcome that obstacle because the key to packing a healthy lunch is planning.  You’ll have to plan what to shop for at the market, plan what to pack for the next day, and plan the best way to pack it all up.  But with all that planning, you’ll be sure to experience something that you didn’t plan for….an energized mood and a healthier bod!

Try these tips to pack a healthy lunch:

  • Make a menu.  On your daily calendar, plan out what you’d like to eat for the week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  If it’s written down and planned out, you’ll be more likely to commit to it and have something to look forward to.
  • Shop smart.  Now that you know what you want to eat, make one shopping trip and buy fresh foods that you can use in a variety of ways.  If it’s packaged, it’s probably processed and loaded with unnecessary additives and ingredients that won’t do you any good.
  • Be creative.  Grab a head of romaine lettuce and use some for a dinner salad, but make sure to save some for your sandwich or even lettuce wraps!  Other great ideas include whole carrots to shred for your salad, which would also be good cut up in strips for a quick crunchy munchie.
  • Use leftovers.  If you have ravioli for dinner on Monday, it will taste just as good for lunch on Tuesday.  Think about that when you make your dinner because you may want to double your recipe so that you’ll have enough for lunch.
  • Pack simple snacks.  Try a bag of grapes or cherry tomatoesTrail mix is always a good energizing snack!
  • Prepackaged fruits.  No I’m not talking about those fruit cups.  Bananas, oranges, and apples have no need for prep and packaging because they’re already in their own package!  So easy for lunch on the go.
  • Make the traditional healthy.  PB&J is such a throwback sandwich, but make a grown-up version by using whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and jelly or jam with no high fructose corn syrup.  Step it up a notch by adding raisins, sunflower seeds, or even bananas for more gourmet flavor!
  • Wrap it up.  Step away from a boring sandwich and make a wrap instead.  Replace boring bread with whole wheat tortilla, hummus instead of mayo, and fill with your favorite veggie slices.  Just wrap and roll!
  • Remember the rules.  Every meal should have fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors, protein, and carbohydrates.  Don’t forget lots of water!

Hope those ideas get your brain thinking and your stomach growling!  Try investing in a cute insulated lunch bag (I have a vintage Chanel-inspired tote) to keep your cold items cold and in the safe zone.  Plus, you won’t overpack and overeat if you have a designated size that will fit your lunch.  Brown paper bags or reused shopping bags will always do the trick, but then again, they won’t mach your fit!

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