How to Create a Healthy Bag Lunch

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Carolinas Medical Center nutritionist Elaine Jones emphasizes the importance of eating well away from home, not just for kids but for adults, too. “Even when you’re on the go, lunches still need to pack in as much nutrition as possible,” says Jones.

To help parents build healthy meals on the fly for the whole family, Jones suggests keeping a checklist handy to ensure a protein, whole grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy and one optional snack or treat item is included to create a balanced lunch with staying power.

Letting the kids get involved in the process can save time, and encourages them to expand their culinary horizons. She suggests letting your kids help create the shopping list and having them lend a hand in the kitchen.

“Having children participate in the selection of items is a great way to get them to eat better,” says Jones, “Having children help with meal preparation actually tends to increase their sampling of more foods because they want to try what they have helped cook.”

Not sure where to start when packing a lunch? First of all, think beyond the brown paper bag. A wealth of insulated lunchboxes, intricate bento boxes, coolers and bowls exist, and having the right gear will open up a whole new world of lunch options far more thrilling than the standard PB&J.

Healthy Lunch Checklist

  • Protein: Turkey breast, grilled chicken, tofu and almond butter
  • Whole grain: Whole wheat bread, brown rice and air-popped popcorn
  • Fruit: Orange slices, unsweetened applesauce, raisins
  • Vegetable: Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes and zucchini rounds
  • Dairy: Yogurt, string cheese and cottage cheese 

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