The first thing I suggest is to picture the new logo from ChooseMyPlate.gov. It doesn't have to be laid out exactly like the actual plate in the logo, but you should try to include each of these components in your lunch.
Ok, so now you have that picture in mind, now it's time to pack a lunch!
Think portable fruits and vegetables (the more you eat, the better, especially non-starchy relish tray-type vegetables)
- Apples, oranges, pears, clementines, bananas, berries
- Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumbers
Think about dips for your fruits and veggies (you can eat them raw, but dips may help entice you to actually eat them!)
- Homemade ranch dressing (use a ranch dressing dry powder packet and mix it into some high protein plain Greek yogurt)
- Nut butters (have protein and fat to keep you full)
Think portable dairy or dairy alternatives (for some protein and calcium). They will last in your lunch box for about 4 hours, as long as it's insulated.
- Greek yogurt or regular yogurt (buy plain if you are watching your weight, then add fruit or unsweetened cocoa powder for flavor)
- Soy yogurt
- String cheese
- Low fat sliced cheese for a sandwich
Think portable grain
- Granola (make your own or buy it, look for 5-10 grams protein)
- Whole wheat bread sandwiches (choose a higher protein bread, if you can, with more than 5 grams protein)
- Whole wheat tortilla roll-ups (use low-sodium deli meat, nut butters, hummus or other bean dips, refried beans, anything!)
Think portable protein (always get some good protein in your lunch, about 20-30 grams. Keep in mind that some of your 20-30 grams protein can be found in the dairy and grain products listed above).
- Nutritional yeast (sprinkle it on vegetables, salads, tortilla wraps, soups, whatever!)
- Beef jerky (I know, loaded with sodium, but every once in a while it's ok to have some high protein jerky!)
- Hard-boiled eggs (one of my favorite lunch components. I'll admit, I like to eat them with mustard! You can also add these to salads, or mix them with Greek yogurt and some spices to make egg salad)
- Tuna (eat it out of a pouch, add it to a salad or wrap, or make it into tuna salad)
- Tempeh (the name might sound unfamiliar, but this cultured soybean is easy to use and quite tasty, especially when turned into sloppy joes)
- Edamame (such an easy source of healthy protein. I suggest the frozen kind. Just steam and eat! I put them in little containers and just eat them with a spoon, or my hand...)
- Walnuts and almonds (add them to tuna salad, or snack mixes with cereal and dried fruit, or just eat them by the handful).
- Protein bars are another option. You could could most bars as a grain and a protein, since many of them are more like meal replacements. Look for at least 10 grams of protein, and 12 grams or less sugar.
Want more ideas? Check out Susan's blog (another RD) to see what she packs in her lunch! And, stay tuned for part two of this post, which will discuss some more tips on packing healthy, portable lunches.
Question: What's your favorite thing to pack in your lunch? More ideas would be helpful!